Collins: This could be the start of something special

Wednesday, 09, April, 2014
Neill Collins celebrates beating Fulham with his team-mates

The date is Saturday 2 November and Sheffield United have been beaten 2-0 at Shrewsbury Town.

Febian Brandy had been sent off and the Blades were languishing third from bottom in League One without an away win all season.

At that low ebb few United fans could have envisaged going into April with a chance of promotion and an FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley on the horizon.

The Blades’ Scottish defender Neill Collins admits he did not see it coming.

“I’ve been in the game a long time and this is the most up and down, topsy-turvy season I’ve ever been a part of,” Collins told WembleyStadium.com.

“If you’d told me January we’d beat Aston Villa I almost wouldn’t have believed you, so if you’d told me we’d go all the way to the semi-finals I’d really have been flabbergasted.”

“It shows you the magic of the FA Cup and what it’s all about.”

A huge Manchester United fan growing up, the commanding defender admits he lived and breathed the world’s oldest cup competition.

And he says there are two moments he relives in his mind time and again.

“I’ll never forget Cantona’s goal in the Cup Final against Liverpool which won United the double,” recalls Collins, “And the other one that stands out is the semi-final against Arsenal.  I’ll never forget Ryan Giggs dribbling by all the Arsenal players, that’s probably one of my favourite goals from a supporter’s point of view.”

“I remember these cup games from years ago so vividly because the FA Cup is something different,” said Collins. “Come Sunday there will be a lot of players wishing they were out there playing and I think that tells you all you need to know.”

Collins may enjoy re-living FA Cup moments from years gone by but his Sheffield United team have been doing an excellent job of creating a new set of special Cup memories this season.

The Blades have put out four teams from divisions above, including two from the Premier League, and are hoping to take add the top flight’s Hull City to that list.

Collins believes much of the credit for the team’s incredible cup run must go to their manager, Nigel Clough.

“I’ve never really been a part of giant killings before but the manager has come in and been very positive in the way he’s approached the games.”

“When you win one game you can sometimes be a bit lucky but when you win five or six I think you’ve got to say you’re doing something right and I think the manager is a big part of that.”

So after going from League One strugglers to FA Cup Semi-Finalists in the blink of an eye, what is next for Collins and Sheffield United?

“There’s no question that if I was to play in an FA Cup Final it would be the pinnacle of my career,” said the former Wolves and Sunderland man.

“But the manager has said that once we get going we will gather momentum and I think that momentum has started with this cup run. It’s been a fantastic season.”