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Apr 11, 2014

Destiny awaits Hull City in FA Cup

Four days after Hull City's history was preserved at Wembley, there comes a gilded chance for it be dramatically enhanced back on the very same spot.

The FA Cup semifinal against Sheffield United on Sunday brings the curtain down on an unprecedented week in the life and times of Hull City. It was almost the end of that very title when the Football Association voted on an application to become known as Hull Tigers on Wednesday, but 27,000 supporters will march back to Wembley this weekend under the same treasured 110-year-old banner.

- Report: FA Council rejects Hull name change

There is no shortage of fans who will regard that to be the biggest victory of the week. The FA's rejection, carried by a vote of 63.5 per cent by the governing body's Council, has protected the heritage of the club and spelt the end of owner Assem Allam's master plan for commercial growth.

For now, at least. Allam has promised to come again, appealing against the findings of the FA, but as Wembley beckons once more, most supporters will be content to forget all about an issue that has blighted the season.

No matter your allegiances, be it with campaign group City Till We Die or as a sympathiser of Allam, the Hull Tigers saga has been sad and regrettable. A crack has split down the club at a time of its greatest successes and it will take time for the mess to be cleared. Harmony left the terraces of the KC long ago.

Perhaps now, though, it can return. At Wembley. With a place in a first major final. That is the hope in the hearts of every travelling supporter this weekend, that a tainted season can regain its sparkle.

There is little reason to suggest it cannot happen. Sheffield United, 43 places below City in the English league ladder, lack the talent and grace of their Premier League opponents and should their spirit be adequately contained, the Blades' may well lack the incision to hurt Hull City manager Steve Bruce's men. Or so logic would tell you.

Somehow it promises to be City's year in the FA Cup. If the kind draws through rounds three, four, five and six were not enough, avoiding competition favourites Arsenal and being paired with the first League One team to reach the semifinals since 2001 has been heaven sent. City could reach the FA Cup final on May 17 without facing a side currently higher than 20th in the Premier League.

That should not detract from their achievements in coming this far, however. Plenty of other top-flight teams have slipped up in games similar to Middlesbrough, Southend and Brighton, but City have quietly eased through to the last four of the FA Cup for the first time since 1930. No mean feat.

Yet having journeyed here it would now seem a crying shame to miss out on more. All the pressure is effectively on the Tigers and defeat would leave them laden with regrets. As their history books tell you, City do not enjoy chances such as these.

The ace in their pack is perhaps Bruce. While his players can boast a handful of Wembley appearances between them, their manager was once a regular when the Twin Towers stood tall. Between 1985 and 1995, he played there no less than 11 times with Norwich City and Manchester United. Two FA Cup final wins continue to rank as highlights in a fine career, but a first managerial honour would almost certainly trump it.

Bruce gave the impression of quiet confidence in the final days before travelling to London, belief in his side and their capabilities. Man for man they are an undeniably better side than Sheffield United, but the greatest virtue required on Sunday may well be patience. Nigel Clough has drilled discipline and organisation in his troops as if it were second nature and they will head to Wembley beaten just twice in 18 games.

It might not be a fixture to rival the hype of Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday, but for one of these two Yorkshire clubs there is greatness at stake. Either Sheffield United will be the first team from the third tier to reach the FA Cup final or Hull City will end 110 years of waiting for theirs.

Hull City could be forgiven for thinking their name has been drafted on the FA Cup this season, but just to see that cherished name live on means this week will never be forgotten.