Tommy Doyle’s delight turns bittersweet after he is ruled out of FA Cup semi-final against parent club

Tommy Doyle's late winner got Sheffield United into the last four - Getty Images/James Williamson
Tommy Doyle's late winner got Sheffield United into the last four - Getty Images/James Williamson

Tommy Doyle’s added-time winner sent Sheffield United into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, but the drawing of his parent club Manchester City will deny him the chance to follow in a family tradition.

Both grandfathers, paternally Mike Doyle and maternally Glyn Pardoe, lifted the 1969 FA Cup at Wembley with Manchester City.

Loanee Doyle ensured that at least his team-mates would play there after his strike sent Bramall Lane into an explosion of joy just 10 minutes after Oli McBurnie had equalised to set up the exciting finale.

“As soon as I hit it, I knew it had a good chance,” Doyle said, before adding he is determined to create his own history to add to the family legacy.

“I said the other day that I wanted to create my own history in football. I’ve got a long way to go to achieve what they achieved. Of course, I want to do better [than them]!”

Soon after his decisive effort, Annie’s Song was being belted out at the end of a thrilling quarter-final. Twice in three seasons, United had fallen at this stage. But not this time as manager Paul Heckingbottom stood in front of the Kop, punching the air before finding Doyle.

“I said to him, ‘that’s what you came here for, isn’t it?’ I remember the first conversation I had with him. He wanted to achieve, to be tested, to learn. He didn’t shy away from the fact it was going to be tough,” said Heckingbottom.

Jon Dahl Tomasson, Blackburn’s manager, bemoaned the fact the match was not halted before the winner. Lewis Travis, Blackburn’s captain who might have closed down Doyle, had been poked in an eye in the build-up.

“Imagine if there was something really serious?” Tomasson said. “What would happen then? You can’t run back when you can’t see out of your eye!”

Blackburn are in the Championship promotion race but, although they were unable to match United in pure quality and guile, they had more than done so in effort and grit.

Twice they led, first through Ben Brereton Diaz’s Var-assisted penalty. Then, after Sam Gallagher’s own goal had restored parity, Sammie Szmodics coolly pushed Blackburn back in front. Ryan Hedges’s shot struck the inside of a post and bounced out, leaving Blackburn to now focus on securing a Championship play-off spot.

United will enter April fighting on two fronts. Automatic promotion is by no means assured now an 11-point cushion over third place has been cut to three points. It could have been worse but for Doyle’s midweek winner at Sunderland.

“The fans will want both,” Doyle said, when asked which competition will be prioritised. “I’m emotionally invested in football in general. When you get a club like Sheffield United, it’s a special feeling. This place holds a special place for me. But it’s not over yet.”

It seems cruel that Doyle – as well as fellow City loanee James McAtee – will have to sit out the semi-final, but the Football Association’s rules mean they cannot play against their parent club in the Cup. Yet Doyle himself preferred to focus on the team making it to Wembley.

“As long as the lads are there,” he said. “We’ve been in this together, I don’t want to think about myself now. I’ll be there supporting the lads.”

As a ‘Citizen’ since a young age, what will feel initially like an agonising blow for Doyle, could be flipped into a ‘win-win’. Either City take a step closer to lifting another trophy or an epic shock affords him an opportunity to emulate his grandfathers.