Sheffield United’s campaign in 2002/03 was miraculous to say the least. A season that is sometimes nicknamed “the triple assault,” because the Blades would have two lengthy cup runs, as well as battling for promotion in the first division (now known as the Championship).
United would get to the semi-final of the Football League Cup, beating Liverpool 2-1 in the first leg at Bramall Lane, thanks to Michael Tonge’s brace. Ultimately, the Premier League giants turned on the style at Anfield and defeated the Blades 3-2 on aggregate.
The Blades would also fall at the semi-final hurdle in the FA Cup against Arsenal, via a 1-0 scoreline. And to this day, Unitedites still wonder how David Seaman saved that Paul Peschisolido header from close range.
It turned out to be a triple punch to the gut for United that season; after finishing third in the league, they would get thrashed 3-0 by Wolves in the play-off final. Despite the misery, for many that campaign remains their favourite and most memorable season ever.
At that time, Kevin Blackwell was the assistant manager to Neil Warnock. And Blackwell reflected on that season on the SheffUnitedWay podcast. Speaking about how Bramall Lane was electrifying that season, Blackwell said:
“There were so many electrifying games at Bramall Lane, there wasn’t one. The Liverpool game, and then we went there to Anfield, to extra time. We were taking top sides all the way. And we were more than competing against them. Arsenal were hanging on in the semi-final. You know, Liverpool were hanging on in the second leg. Every week they seemed to be a game and it got better and better and better.”
Speaking in more detail about the FA Cup semi-final tie against Arsenal, Blackwell remarked:
“I was doing some work with ProZone. And ProZone said that they would let us all have the running stats and all the figures, because they felt we had a really good chance of going to the Premier League.
“And in the stats we outran Arsenal. In the previous four years, Arsenal were only ever outrun over distances and over short spells by Bayern Munich, Barcelona and I think it was Valencia and someone else. They were only ever outrun by four of the world’s top sides, and we outrun them.”