Paul Heckingbottom wants Sheffield United to write an “unbelievable story” after reaching the FA Cup semi-finals, but on-loan midfielder Tommy Doyle faces Wembley heartache after the Blades were drawn against his parent club Manchester City.
Doyle would have been hoping to follow in the footsteps of his grandfathers Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe by playing at the national stadium after firing the Blades into the last four with a stunning injury-time winner against Blackburn.
The 21-year-old has watched video footage of his paternal grandfather Doyle and maternal grandfather Pardoe playing at Wembley for City in the late 1960s and 1970s.
But the semi-final draw was not kind, pairing the Blades with City, a tie for which, under the competition’s rules for loan players, Doyle and fellow loanee James McAtee will be ineligible.
It was particularly harsh on Doyle, whose strike completed a late turnaround, with United heading out, trailing to goals from Ben Brereton Diaz and Sam Szmodics, either side of Sam Gallagher’s own goal, until the final 10 minutes.
Oli McBurnie got the Blades level in the 81st minute before Doyle’s heroics booked a first FA Cup semi-final spot for the Blades since 2014 in a thrilling tie.
Their trip to Wembley is supplementing a promotion charge in the Championship – they lie second in the table – and Heckingbottom is looking forward to a memorable end to the season.
“For us to be in April and be in with a chance of automatic promotion and be in the semi-final of the FA Cup is an unbelievable achievement, it is fantastic and it is a big pat on the back for everyone at the club,” the boss said.
“I’m really focused and intent on us achieving something and not just getting credit, but getting an outcome.
“It’s been a fantastic season so far and I am focused on capping it off, it could end up being an unbelievable one.
“It could be an unbelievable story, but it’s just a story everyone should enjoy, people should enjoy the position we are in the league and in the FA Cup semi-final. And we will take it game by game now. It’s going to be tight and intense.”
Blackburn boss Jon Dahl Tomasson believes the game should have been stopped in the build-up to Doyle’s winner when Tyler Morton went down with a head injury after a challenge from Iliman Ndiaye.
“The head injury for Morton, they say it was only a finger in the eye, but he would have been standing in that zone where the goal came from,” the Dane said. “Imagine if it was something really serious.
“I said to the referee, ‘Normally, you stop a game with a head injury’. I think he knows it. It’s OK.
“Of course it should have been stopped, that’s the rules, isn’t it? It’s a big moment, imagine if there is something really dangerous. You can’t run when you can’t see out of your eye.
“I’m thinking about consequence, what the consequences could have been.
“Imagine that, it could have been extremely serious. We all know with a head injury you need to stop immediately, it could be very dangerous.”