Dubliner Michael Doyle eyeing another cup upset
Sheffield United captain hopes to add Spurs to list of Premier League scalps
Sheffield United captain Michael Doyle accepts his side must lift their game to an even higher level if they are to pull off another upset in their two-legged semi-final against Tottenham.
But the former Ireland midfielder insists if the tie is still alive after the first leg at White Hart Lane, Nigel Clough’s cup specialists will have “a brilliant chance” in the return leg at Bramall Lane.
Clough’s League One side have beaten West Ham and Southampton to reach the last four and if that was not enough to serve Tottenham with a big enough warning, United’s exploits in the FA Cup these past two seasons add extra credence to their latest challenge.
“There’s a lot to play for and I’m sure Tottenham will be fired up,” the Dubliner said. “They’ll look at our previous results and performances in other cup games and I’m sure they’ll take note of that.
“They won’t underestimate us, especially as we’ve come so far and they’ll be looking to finish it in the first leg, so we’ve got to be on our guard.
“I just hope we can keep the tie alive. If we can, coming back to Bramall Lane will give us a brilliant chance.”
Doyle led Sheffield United out at Wembley in last season’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Hull – Aston Villa and Fulham were beaten along the way – while this year West Ham and Southampton, in the League Cup, and QPR, in the FA Cup, have all been despatched.
When asked to account for the Blades’ imperious cup form, Doyle added: “I haven’t got a clue to be honest with you, but since the Aston Villa game we’ve embraced everything about the cups and these ties.
“We’ve gone out with no fear in them and produced some of our best performances in a long time. The cup games have left people scratching their heads and asking why we can’t replicate that form in the league.
“In the league games we probably have the ball as much but we sit back and counter-attack in the cup games a bit more, whereas teams probably do that to us in the league.
“It’s quite difficult to play against if you do it right. We’ve found it difficult to play against at times, but we do it quite well ourselves, which we’ve shown against the Premier League teams.
“We’re at the serious end of the cup now and probably nobody else will give us a chance, but our fans have seen the performances we’ve put in and they’ll be expecting us to go down there and have a go.”
Centre half Chris Basham could go straight back into the starting line-up following his three-game ban, but midfielder James Wallace and Ben Davies (foot) are not expected to be involved and Ryan Flynn remains doubtful after missing Saturday’s defeat at MK Dons due to an Achilles problem.
Kyle Naughton is set to miss out for Tottenham as a move to Swansea edges closer. The 26-year-old full-back came through the ranks at Bramall Lane, making 50 appearances for United before moving to north London in 2009.
Naughton arrived at White Hart Lane at the same time as Kyle Walker, although has struggled to make the same impact as the England right back.
He is now understood to be closing in on a move to Swansea, with a fee, reported to be £5million, having been agreed.
Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino was coy about Naughton’s future on Tuesday. “I can’t tell you any news or any comment,” he said – but suggested that his exit would be the exception rather than the rule.
The third-tier Blades approach the match as underdogs, but should not be taken lightly given they have beaten five Premier League sides since the start of 2014.
“We know that Sheffield is a very good team,” Pochettino said.
“In this type of competition, it is not important the level, whether you play in Premier League or League One.
“When it is decided over one or two games, it is important to be focused and we need to show respect for Sheffield United.”