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Dublin: 14°C Friday 14 May 2021

David Meyler: FA Cup semi-final weekend gave me one of the best moments of my career

In his latest column, the former Ireland midfielder previews this weekend’s semi-final ties and gives his predictions.

Celebrating my goal in Hull's FA Cup semi-final win.
Celebrating my goal in Hull's FA Cup semi-final win.
Image: EMPICS Sport

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest column, Meyler looks ahead to this weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals — Chelsea v Man City and Leicester City v Southampton — while remembering a stand-out moment from his own career. 

Meyler WH banner

Chelsea v Man City, 5.30pm Saturday

It’s hard to believe, but this week marks seven years since I played in an FA Cup semi-final.

Since then, my wife Cally has had two beautiful kids and I’ve retired from the game. Where does the time go? 

The FA Cup is a unique and historic trophy — the oldest competition in world football — and mentioning it brings back great memories.

My earliest is the 1996 final, when the ball fell to Eric Cantona at the edge of the box and he scored through a crowd of Liverpool players to win it for Manchester United. I was a couple of weeks shy of my seventh birthday.

When I look back on my playing days, the run with Hull City in 2014 undoubtedly stands out. People reading this might be quick to say ‘well, you lost the final’, but it’s not an easy competition to win.

Wayne Rooney will go down as one of the most successful footballers of his generation, but despite all the silverware, he only won the FA Cup once. That was under Louis van Gaal in 2016.

In our final against Arsenal, we nearly had one hand on the trophy after scoring two goals inside the opening eight minutes.

We had a huge opportunity for success in such a special competition but it wasn’t to be. For around two years after that, I didn’t want to talk about it at all.

As you get older and reflect on things though, there is no denying that it was an incredible journey for the club and for that group of players.

My fondest memory would be the semi-final against Sheffield United. We faced a good League One side but, as a Premier League club, we felt confident that we could beat them without being cocky.

However, we started the game very lackadaisically and they scored straight away but we managed to get back into it.

Trailing 2-1 at half-time, I’ll never forget what was said during the break. The manager will always go and speak to his coaching staff for a couple of minutes before addressing the players. It also allows the players to settle down in the dressing room, particularly if they are frustrated.

While they did that, our captain at the time — Curtis Davis — lost his head. He was running around shouting at lads that it wasn’t good enough, and letting his emotions be known. He even pinned a player against the wall.

soccer-barclays-premier-league-hull-city-v-cardiff-city-kc-stadium My former Hull City team-mate Curtis Davis. Source: Richard Sellers

He drove home the fact that this was a massive chance for us to reach the final, and not to let it pass us by. Everyone listened and when the manager came in, there was nothing more left for him to say.

He made a couple of changes — Matty Fryatt and Sone Aluko came on — and we were immediately on the front foot in the second half.

Fryatt scrambled in from close range to make it 2-2 and not long after that I play a one-two with Tom Huddlestone and he slots it into the corner.

We find ourselves 3-2 up and with Sheffield United throwing everything at us, we managed to pick them off on the counter attack. I play Jake Livermore in, who crosses it for Stephen Quinn to head home.

At 4-2, it was game over in my mind but Jamie Murphy scored for them late on and I was thinking ‘holy shit, they could actually come back’. In injury time, we win possession. I play it to Fryatt, who passes back to Ahmed Elmohamady.

You’re at Wembley, there’s 71,000 at the game and I can hear Steve Bruce telling Elmohamady to bring the ball to the corner but I’m shouting at Elmo to play me in. If it was anyone else, they probably would’ve stuck it in the corner for me to hold the ball up there but he put me in on goal.

I went through one on one with the ‘keeper and composed myself enough to finish. The combination of seeing the ball hitting the back of the net and hearing the fans screaming was just like ‘wow!’.

At that moment, I knew I had sent Hull City to the FA Cup final. The relief and the emotion comes out as you jog over to the corner flag to celebrate. It’s hard to describe the feeling.

The Sheffield United fans then stood up and clapped their team for the effort. They were incredible and pushed us all the way but our experience ultimately shone through.

chelsea-v-manchester-city-premier-league-stamford-bridge Chelsea's Mason Mount and Man City midfielder Rodri. Source: PA

We’re down to the final four in this year’s competition and first up is Chelsea versus Man City on Saturday. 

The hammering by West Brom probably made Thomas Tuchel realise he hasn’t quite cracked it yet and that would’ve allowed him to hit the reset button.

Chelsea reached the Champions League semi-final this week and everything seems to be going in the right direction again.

They face a Man City side – also through in Europe – who are on the way to the Premier League title despite last weekend’s defeat to Leeds.

City have a world class squad and can chop and change as many players as they like without losing much quality, so I’m going with a 3-1 win for Pep Guardiola’s team.

Leicester v Southampton 6.30pm Sunday 

The incident involving a group of Leicester City players breaking Covid-19 rules to attend a party is disappointing to see. 

Brendan Rodgers was clearly angered and made the decision to drop them against West Ham last weekend. There are strict protocols in place in relation to Covid-19, albeit things are starting to open back up over here in the UK.

He prides himself on discipline, so with the lockdown nearly coming to the end why did they find themselves in a situation like this?

The message from him now is that it has been put to bed and they need those players back after the defeat to the Hammers.

aston-villa-v-leicester-city-premier-league-villa-park James Maddison is back in contention for Leicester after he was one of the players dropped for disciplinary reasons last weekend. Source: PA

They have got to hold their hands up, admit their mistake and work hard to get back in the team. James Maddison, in particular, is a game-changer and a big player for them. 

Leicester have had a very good season under Rodgers and will be going into this semi-final feeling like they are favourites.

It’s a shame that there will be no supporters because these are massive moments and you can imagine each club bringing 40,000 fans to Wembley.

Southampton, who have won the FA Cup once back in 1976, will also be thinking it could be a huge occasion for them if they can get things right on the day.

Both teams are coming into the game on the back of defeats. The manner in which the Saints lost to West Brom on Monday was very disappointing.

Leicester’s first half against West Ham was embarrassing but they came good in the second half and almost deserved something out of the game.

I’m predicting a win for the Foxes, 2-1.

William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org    

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