Steve Bruce will likely flood the Hull midfield to stifle Arsenal's creativity – then try to repeat Birmingham's feat of three years ago
Amid the Wembley tension, please remember the tribute to the Bradford fire victims
Whether you are a player, manager, or pundit, the FA Cup final is where you want to be and I am delighted I'll be working alongside Michael Owen and Ian Darke for BT Sport at Wembley this afternoon. I'll be in the home dressing room at around 12.30 as part of a preview programme, then after a bit of lunch I'll be going up to the commentary position to enjoy one of the best views in the house.
It is certainly a long way from Shortwood, the non-league club in Gloucestershire I had never heard of until working there on a rickety commentary tower in the first round, but that contrast is one of the things that makes the competition so special.
The forecast is for a lovely day, which FA Cup final day should always be, and having beaten Hull City comprehensively recently Arsenal will be confident of finally getting their hands on silverware. However, that's what they thought three years ago when they played Birmingham City in the League Cup final, and we all know what happened then.
It is going to be difficult for Hull. Their regular front pair, Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, are Cup-tied, so goalscoring could be a problem, and they have injury doubts over a couple of key players. I expect Steve Bruce to play three centre-halves and flood the midfield to try and deny players like Aaron Ramsey space. If they are to win, the wing-backs have got to have outstanding matches, but Robbie Brady, who plays that role superbly, has been out for months and it would be a big move for Steve to start him. However, Liam Rosenior has had a good season and he and Ahmed Elmohamady are more than capable of doing the job well.
Steve is in a no-lose situation going into the game; the only thing he will be worried about is the possibility of his team taking a beating. They've not had the best of times in the league these last few weeks and Steve will be hoping they raise their game and perform like they have done on a lot of occasions this season, being solid and catching teams on the break.
I think their best chance of scoring is through Sone Aluko; the difficulty is finding a place for him without compromising the solidity of the team. That might mean playing a back four, a narrow midfield four and allowing Aluko to play as the spare man.
I'll be keeping an eye out, when the team-sheets arrive, for Stephen Quinn who played for me, along with his brother Alan, at Sheffield United. I don't expect him to start but hope he makes the bench and gets the chance to come on, as he did in the semi-final. He hails from a great family, a great big one, too. They'll have been running their own shuttle service from Ireland this week and I bet Stephen's been going round begging tickets from all and sundry.
Amid the tension and excitement I hope the minute's applause fans of both clubs are planning in the 56th minute, to remember the 56 victims of the 1985 Bradford fire disaster, is successful. With all the focus, understandably, on Hillsborough recently, Bradford has become something of a forgotten tragedy nationally but it is still remembered in Yorkshire.
It had a big impact on me at the time and I was very much aware of it in later years as I worked with Stuart McCall, now Motherwell manager, at Sheffield United. Stuart was Bradford City's captain that day, his family were there, and his father suffered severe burns. If you are going to Wembley, or even if you are watching on television at home, please join in.
It took 30 years to get hold of my Hartlepool award
I've been in the north-east this week speaking at a couple of charity dinners for my old manager Len Ashurst. People who have read my book The Gaffer – incidentally, now out in paperback and perfect for reading on the beach – will know he was the most influential manager I had in my career. He had a gift of making you feel special – and believe you me, at Hartlepool that took some doing.
I chatted to a few Hartlepool fans and did have a laugh with them. As I told them, the only award I won as a player was the Hartlepool player of the year award under Len in 1972. And it took them about 30 years, and a lot of pestering from me, to hand it over.
The Sunderland fans at the dinner are still celebrating what they have called the great escape – and it really was if you think of the teams they beat those last few weeks. Now their concern is whether they can hang on to Gus Poyet as the managerial merry-go-round picks up speed.
Tim Sherwood was among the casualties this week, but he may be a beneficiary, too. He has the potential to become a very good manager and he might well get another Premier League job this summer, but I also think he is more than capable of taking a team like Brighton and building something.
I think Tim will have learned a lot from his few months in charge at Tottenham and we may see a difference when he gets back in. I think he'll always be forthright, but he'll have to learn to bite his tongue a bit more. At times we all want to say the things Tim said about owners and players, but in management you have to keep a lot inside you. You may be dying to tell the public about a player or the chief executive letting you down but you can't do it. It helps for a split second, but the consequences last a lot longer. As I found out over my career, there can only be one winner when you take on the owner, and it isn't the manager. And while I have criticised players in the past I think you have to be careful lambasting so many of them. Players have all the power now, as Felix Magath may find out at Fulham having told them to come in for training instead of going on holiday. I bet that went down well.
This is my last column of the season and I'd like to thank the loyal readers who have been in touch. I really enjoy doing it. Hope you all have a good summer and here's to Gareth Bale scoring the winner in the Champions League final and England reaching the World Cup semi-finals with Roy Hodgson being brave with his team selections.
Money can pay off for Cambridge in battle of my old pals
The FA Cup is not the only big game this weekend. There's also the Conference play-off between Cambridge United and Gateshead on Sunday. Getting back into the Football League is as important for both sides as winning the FA Cup is for Arsenal and Hull City.
I've a foot in each camp as I played with Cambridge manager Richard Money when he was a promising centre-half at Scunthorpe United before he went to Fulham and Liverpool. Gateshead's Gary Mills played for me at Notts County when I was a young manager and he was finishing his career. He'd been a European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, but though we were at a lower level he still had a great attitude.
I felt Gary was short-changed at York City and it is nice to see him take a club like Gateshead, which has been in the doldrums, one step from the Football League. Getting them back in for the first time since 1960 would be an impressive feat as the Conference is a tough league to get out of.
Richard's had mixed fortunes as a manager but rarely been out of the top two in the Conference in recent years, with Luton then Cambridge. I went there for BT Sport, did an interview with Richard and took a training session. Their set-up and facilities, from academy to first team, opened my eyes. A lot of clubs even up to Championship level would be envious. They do seem geared to make the step back up and I can see them going straight through to League One if they win tomorrow.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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