Hull City v Sheffield United: George Boyd ready to prove he's got a Tiger in his tank
Hull winger out to make a name for himself against Sheffield United in FA Cup semi-final
Sunday 13 April 2014
The bloody-minded determination of owner Assem Allam to change the name of Hull City AFC to Hull Tigers may be hard to fathom, but in what is turning into the greatest season in the East Yorkshire club's 110-year professional history, George Boyd believes even that divisive issue has an unexpected up side.
"It's actually helped the atmosphere at the games, especially at home, because the fans have been determined to show that however they feel about the name, it's not going to affect their support for the team, and have made even more noise than usual. The players haven't been distracted. We've worked too hard to let that happen."
Boyd, the former Peterborough United winger whose headed goal against Swansea last week may have sealed Hull's Premier League survival, is very much a case in point. Regarded as one of the most skilful players outside the top division during his six years at London Road, there have been times since he moved to Hull when adjusting to the demands of the Premier League looked beyond him.
Posh fans used to seeing Boyd take a player on, or shoot from distance (in 2012 his 50-yard volley against Huddersfield was more cleanly hit and accurate than Wayne Rooney's recent effort against West Ham) scratched their heads when Hull's early television appearances showed him nervously laying the ball off.
Recently, however, the 28-year-old has begun to resemble something of his former self. His time on the pitch, previously restricted to a few minutes off the bench, has been extended, and as the sort of player whose ability can expose League One defenders, there is a good chance he will start against Sheffield United in today's FA Cup semi-final.
Boyd accepts that confidence was an issue in those early matches in the Premier League. "At first I was very conscious about not losing possession. In lower leagues you can reckon on getting the ball back quickly, but that's not the case in the Premier League, and I was very aware of that.
"But I understand now sometimes it's alright to try something, and if it's not in a stupid place your team-mates and the manager will be okay if it doesn't come off. And if it does you get more confident. Pablo Zabaleta is one of the best full-backs around, but when we played Manchester City recently I think I gave him a difficult time."
Whether that match proves a turning point for Boyd remains to be seen. After coming on with half an hour remaining he did beat Zabaleta several times, and had two penalty appeals turned down – but also got involved in an unseemly row with City goalkeeper Joe Hart which culminated in Boyd being suspended for three matches for deliberately spitting at an opponent.
"I simply didn't do it, people who know me know I would never do something like that, and Joe himself said I hadn't done it deliberately, so being suspended was hard to understand. But it's lesson learned, because when you slow the replay down it doesn't look great, and I mustn't put myself in that sort of situation again."
Not least because it could jeopardise what, as a trainee at Stevenage working in a confectionery stall on Hitchin station to pay for his train fares, was always his dream.
"There's a few of us like that here at Hull, players who've been at lower-league clubs and worked their way up. We appreciate what we have and will fight to keep it."
For the same reason, Boyd says no one will take Sheffield United's challenge lightly as City look to qualify for their first FA Cup final.
"They might beat us, but if they do I can promise it won't be because we under-estimated them."
Hull City v Sheffield United is live on BT Sport 1, kick-off 4.07pm
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