Sheffield United: Clough says the cup is still special

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Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has leapt to the FA Cup’s defence, despite admitting he sympathises with Paul Lambert’s controversial stance towards the competition.

Lambert, whose Aston Villa side meet United in the third round today, caused uproar earlier this week by insisting most top-flight clubs would prefer to focus solely on the league.

But Clough, pointing to the fact his team are set to enjoy a 6,000 strong following in the Midlands, said: “I understand where Paul is coming from but the fact it’s still special is highlighted by the number of fans we’re taking.

“We look at that and it makes us feel very, very proud. It’s special for them as it is myself and our players.

“That type of support also makes us understand the potential here. Of what might happen if we can get back into the Championship and become a strong team there.”

Clough, who is set to name teenager Dominic Calvert-Lewin on United’s bench, confirmed his late father Brian would have been “saddened” by comments about the tournament’s significance but added: “I sympathise with where Paul is coming from though because, for Aston Villa to be relegated, would be financially disastrous for them. What drives it is the financial fear of going down.”

Meanwhile, Clough has revealed Sean McGinty is poised to join Mansfield Town on loan.