As debuts go, Kyle Walker's was an uneasy one. His family would have dreamed of him playing an FA Cup tie at Bramall Lane but they would have preferred their boy to have been wearing the colours of Sheffield United.
The last time Aston Villa had come to this corner of Yorkshire in the FA Cup, Walker had been a ball boy and Sheffield United had won 3-1. Here he was playing for Gérard Houllier's side, loaned out by Tottenham after a spell at Queen's Park Rangers, and his mother had told him that, if he scored, he was not to celebrate.
Perhaps Mrs Walker was asking a rhetorical favour; her son was after all playing as a full-back but he scored and it was not a defender's goal but a wonderful run at three men wearing red-and-white shirts. Walker had begun the game by reminding himself that these were shirts he should not be passing to. He did not celebrate his first senior goal, which would have pleased his mum, and the 3-1 scoreline of January 2005 was reversed, which naturally pleased his manager.
Asked about his change of circumstances, Walker said: "Houllier is a very different manager to Warnock," which is rather like saying that chablis is a very different drink to snakebite. Following an ill-tempered League Cup semi-final between Sheffield United and Liverpool eight years ago, the two men do not get on and it was when asked about the events at Anfield that Houllier became more philosophical.
"I think Kenny will see a change," he said. "And it is not just the press, although they are more numerous, there are radio and television crews everywhere. There is no time now."
Sheffield United (4-5-1): Simonsen; Kozluk, Ertl, Bartley, Parrino (Slew, 89); Britton, Williamson (McAllister, 75), Montgomery, Ward, Bogdanovic; Evans. Substitutes not used Long, Harriott, Calve, James. Booked Kozluk.
Aston Villa (4-5-1): Friedel; Walker, Cuellar, Dunne, Clark; Albrighton, Reo-Coker (Collins, 89), Bannan (Petrov, 65), Pires (Downing, 65), Young; Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used Marshall (g), Herd, Hogg, Delfouneso.
Booked Petrov. Sent off Young (77).
Possession Sheff Utd 44% Aston Villa 56%.
Shots on target Sheff Utd 5 Aston Villa 8.
Man of the match Albrighton. Match rating 6/10.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire). Attendance: 16,888.Reuse content