Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has blasted the scheduling of next weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final with Charlton Athletic, writes James Shield.
And, describing the decision to kick-off at noon as “staggering,” Clough indicated the start time had been influenced by television chiefs after confirming he offered to play the match 48 hours earlier so as not to inconvenience the visitors’ travelling support.
As The Star revealed yesterday, officials at both Bramall Lane and The Valley were dismayed after learning March 9th’s fixture, which is being screened live by BT Sport, would start at midday.
With the first train from London arriving in Sheffield seven minutes later, Clough said: “We have a huge sympathy with fans full stop, no matter where they are from. This is the first time either of us have been this far for some time, it’s supposed to be a supporters’ competition and so surely we should be trying to encourage people to attend.
“There are no trains and, if this had been the other way around, we wouldn’t have been happy so the same applies now.
“Fans shell out fortunes to come and watch us. We tried for a Saturday evening, we tried for a Friday night but we didn’t have a say.”
“Sunderland versus Hull City is kicking-off at 2pm and those two places are, what, a couple of hours apart,” Clough added. “That’s a shorter journey so perhaps they could have been swapped.”
United, who return to League One action at MK Dons this afternoon, entertain Peterborough on Tuesday before hosting Chris Powell’s side five days later.
“People forget what makes this sport tick,” Clough said, “The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is regionalised to help people and so, I think, are the early rounds of the League Cup. That’s a good thing.
“We all appreciate the revenue from television but we should still be helping fans.
“”We want an atmosphere and we want an occasion. Those are what you want to be involved in.
“We all remarked after beating (Nottingham) Forest in the last round that we want to be involved in more matches like that because it was a cracking atmosphere.”
United, now 12th in the table, expect Harry Maguire to feature at stadium:mk after receiving treatment on the knee he injured during Tuesday’s win over Colchester while midfielder Stephen McGinn (back) should also be eligible for selection.
“They should be okay,” Clough said. “Harry is a big strong lad.”