One of the ways to pick out possible Cup upsets is to look for team performing poorly drawn away from home to a team from a lower division.
The formula fits this match but then a look at Sheffield United’s form and you quickly realize that Aston Villa has drawn a team in Sheffield United that is having as much trouble as they are – and one division lower.
It has been a tough road for Sheffield United since their controversial relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2006/07 season. Manager Neil Warnock left to be replaced by Bryan Robson but his tenure proved to be a short one – a ninth place finish in 2008 leaving the Blades out of play-off contention.
Kevin Blackwell was next in line and he took United to within a whisker of an automatic promotion. Hopes were high for the play-offs but a 1-0 loss to Burnley in the Final brought an end to the hope for a return to the Premier League.
What’s more there was no follow through last season and the team slipped back to a 8th place finish. When this season started badly Blackwell was shown the door and replaced by Gary Speed. A few weeks ago Speed opted to take on the job of manager of the Wales national team and so the managerial roundabout continued.
This time United went for a home town boy and the much travelled Micky Adams. This is the tenth manager’s position Adams has held in 15 years. There have been spells at Fulham, Brighton, Leicester, Coventry and prior to this last move he was at Port Vale.
Adams will need all of his experience to keep the Blades from slipping further down the English football pyramid.
Sheffield United sits only one point above the three team relegation with over half the campaign gone. The Sheffield squad pretty much mirrors 80% of the teams in the Championship – names you recognize from hanging around the Premier League long enough for a cup of coffee or players that went up and back down in one season.
Top scorer is former Manchester City striker Ched Evans who has 7 goals so far. In goal is former Everton and Stoke keeper Steve Simonsen, Nyron Noseworthy is on loan from Sunderland and another former Stoke player Richard Cresswell plays in midfield.
Neutrals may also recognize the names of Mark Yeates (ex-Spurs and Boro) and Darius Henderson ex-Watford.
You know that things are bad when the highlight of the holiday fixtures (for Sheffield United 3 losses and a draw) was the United mascot Captain Blade expressing solidarity with the Deepdale Duck, mascot of Preston North End. The Duck was led away after complaints that he was unduly distracting the Derby goalkeeper. No truth in the rumour that the Deepdale Duck was on loan from Manchester United and had been recalled by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Bookies say – Sheffield United 2.4/1, Draw 2.3/1, and Aston Villa 1.15/1
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