Giant-killing Sheffield United seem to have found the secret to beating Premier League sides – roughing them up a bit.
Talking ahead of the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, their attacking midfielder Jose Baxter said: “In the Premier League, everything is into feet and nice. They don’t really touch each other, they aren’t used to getting barged about, people in their faces, kicking them and not helping them up when they get kicked. It works for us.”
This season the League One side have already knocked two Premier League teams out of this competition – West Ham and Southampton – and Queen’s Park Rangers out of the FA Cup. While Spurs will also be technically superior to United’s players, Baxter believes an aggressive attitude can give his side the edge. “There’s a lot of ‘matey, matey’ in the Premier League,” he said. “I don’t like it at all – hugging and kissing each other before games and all that. They’re nice, they don’t want to get kicked and they’re all great, technical players. It’s just when they come to play us and we give them a few kicks, they don’t like it.”
There will be passion on both sides, though, with the Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker facing his first club and the one he still supports. Walker, who grew up idolising Brian Deane and Peter Ndlovu, left Sheffield United at the age of 19 and his three-year-old son supports both teams.
Walker learnt that Spurs had drawn them while in the car last month. “I was driving along and kept hearing the phone beep,” he said. “I didn’t read the text messages until I got home when I saw I had about 40 missed calls and 70 text messages saying we had Sheffield United.”
White Hart Lane will be full of Walker’s friends and family, after his mother arranged all the tickets. “She told everyone they all had to get in touch with her by a certain date or else they would be left disappointed,” he said. The Walker family will be supporting United – “they are Sheffield United fans, seriously” – but his son Roman might have to wear a Spurs shirt. “No doubt about that one, he’s a Blade,” joked Walker. “I’m a Blade so he’s a Blade. He’s got both a Tottenham and a Sheffield United kit, to be fair. He might not be allowed to wear his Sheffield United one at White Hart Lane because he’ll be in the home end.”
Walker is desperately keen to get to the final to fulfil the ambition which took him to Spurs in 2009. “I’ve always said I came to Tottenham to win things,” Walker said. “It’s not going to be easy. Blades are going to chuck a lot at us. We are going to have to suck it up and then make sure our football does the talking.”
Midfielder Ryan Mason will return for Tottenham after being out since New Year’s Day with a hamstring complaint. Erik Lamela (calf) will not feature while Nabil Bentaleb is away on international duty with Algeria.
The midfielder Chris Basham could go straight back into United’s starting line-up following his three-game ban, but 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 with an Achilles problem.Reuse content