Manchester City's Micah Richards has declared that winning one trophy could bring more coming "thick and fast" and that the thought of pulling down the Old Trafford banner proclaiming his side's 35 years without a trophy is driving them towards the goal of an FA Cup triumph.
City's comfortable fifth-round win over Aston Villa certainly places them within easier reach of the last four than Manchester United, with Championship side Reading the sixth-round opposition after their surprise defeat of Everton. With Chelsea and Liverpool to be followed out of the tournament by either United or Arsenal, who now face each other, the prospects of reaching a first FA Cup semi-final for 30 years are unmistakable.
That banner, Richards said, is "something that drives the boys on a bit. It's good banter between the two sets of fans, but we don't think there's too much in it now between us and United. It would be nice to be a part of the team that pulls it down one day."
The absence of silverware has become an albatross for City but Richards, still only 22 though now the longest-serving player in City's first-team squad, said winning one would remove a psychological barrier. "It would take the pressure off if we got that first one, and more could follow. I think [trophies] could start coming thick and fast."
That is what City felt last season when they won the Carling Cup semi-final first leg against United at Eastlands, only to exit with an aggregate defeat. "I've been here for a while, been playing for about five seasons now and having not won anything up until now is a bit of a disappointment," Richards reflected. "But we've got a good team now. We don't want to be complacent [about Reading] but we feel it's a tie we can win. Everton have been a bit of a bogey side for us, so we're really glad Reading beat them."
Richards was among those surprised by Villa manager Gérard Houllier's decision not to start with Stewart Downing or Ashley Young on Wednesday. "They obviously had some outstanding players on the bench and we were a bit surprised when we saw their team sheet," said the defender, who had a tough personal battle on his own right flank with Gabriel Agbonlahor. "We were talking throughout the game. He loves to wind me up, just can't take anything seriously, so we had a bit of fun on that side. But we had quite a good battle, so it was all good," Richards revealed.
Another strong performance in what has been a resurgent two months for Richards came in front of England manager Fabio Capello and the defender has grounds to feel he has a shout to challenge Glen Johnson for a starting spot, having drifted out of the England set-up during three difficult years in which he has been slow to mature.
Richards has not started for England since the defeat to Croatia which brought the curtain down on Steve McClaren's era in November 2007 and his second-half appearance against France last November was his first under Capello. "When I get my chance I want to make sure I take it," he said. "I feel like I am playing well, but it's down to Mr Capello. Of course I am still desperate to play for England."
City striker Mario Balotelli has not sustained new damage to the knee which has been troubling him all season, despite the signs of pain he was demonstrating towards the end of the first half of Wednesday night's encounter with Villa.
35 years of City hurt
Since winning the League Cup thanks to Dennis Tueart's bicycle kick against Newcastle at Wembley in February 1976 Manchester City have had few chances to lift some major silverware.
Kevin Keegan's side won the First Division in 2002 but the closest they came to a major win was the FA Cup final against Spurs 30 years ago. Tommy Hutchison gave them the lead only to score an own goal with 11 minutes left, deflecting a free-kick past the wrong-footed Joe Corrigan.
In the replay, City were winning 2-1 before a Garth Crooks equaliser with 20 minutes to go, then Ricky Villa's wonder goal, settled matters for Tottenham.
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