When the 9.29am to St Pancras leaves the station this morning, Nigel Clough hopes it will be reverberating to the sound of laughter, not riddled with nerves, writes James Shield.
The Sheffield United manager, whose team visit Tottenham Hotspur in the Capital One Cup semi-finals tonight, has proven adept at masterminding the downfall of top-flight teams in knockout competition since being appointed 15 months ago.
And, speaking as his players prepared for the first leg at White Hart Lane, the former England international revealed how adopting a low ley approach could help them pass arguably their toughest test of all.
Clough, who lifted the trophy twice as a player, said: “The biggest enemy when you’re at a Premier League ground is nerves. That can work against you but I think generally in the big games we’ve not shown any.
“That’s been a nice part of it. That we go there, that we’re relaxed, that our preparation stays the same, that we don’t do too much with the players but that they’re aware of the magnitude of the game.
“We’re due to go down on the train, have a bit of lunch, get them in their beds and then they’re ready for the game. The less thinking time they can have about it the better.
“East Midlands trains look after us. We get a carriage. It holds about 40 people.
“So it’s brilliant, all the staff can get on it. We get there, then straight on the bus and we’re away.”
Despite going to great lengths to ensure its squad is at ease, United’s coaching staff believe taking Spurs out of their comfort zone holds the key to this evening’s contest; a tactical ploy which has helped last season’s FA Cup semi-finalists overcome the likes of Southampton, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham in recent months.
Clough, a member of the Nottingham Forest team which beat Luton Town and Oldham Athletic in the 1989 and 1990 finals, before entering the world of management. Gary Crosby, his assistant at Bramall Lane, also featured against Joe Royle’s side.
Asked whether those experiences have proven useful ahead of the meeting with Spurs, he said: “To a certain extent. What it does is give us a way of preparing the players as best we can and to try and get them to be relaxed.
“I think that’s the biggest thing you can probably pass on but it’s down to them.”