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Football: Ugo plotting a cup double.

FORMER Villa defender Ugo Ehiogu will steel himself for another crucial 90 minutes today as Middlesbrough target double cup glory.

The 33-year-old will seek to book a place in the FA Cup final against West Ham at Villa Park just three days after a difficult UEF A Cup tie in Bucharest.

Both sides know victory would, barring a remarkable turn of events, guarantee them European football next season, and Ehiogu knows it is an opportunity the Teessiders cannot afford to pass up.

"We know what's at stake, and it's whoever wants to win it," said Ehiogu, who would have been involved in a relegation battle with Albion had he come to The Hawthorns in January. "Whoever performs on the day are going to take the spoils.

"Sometimes it's difficult to pick yourself up. You get little knocks and strains, but there's a lot to play for and really, no-one wants to be out of the team, especially when you have so many big games coming up.

"Semi-finals don't need talking up. They are what we have fought for for the last two or three years and now we are here, we need to make sure we don't miss the opportunity."

Ehiogu, who captained the side in Romania with Gareth Southgate missing because of an ankle problem, is likely to have a major role to play once again despite Chris Riggot's return from suspension.

Southgate is manager Steve McClaren's major doubt, although he hopes both Mark Viduka and Lee Cattermole, who also missed out in midweek, will be available after thigh and ankle problems respectively.

West Ham will be able to call on a wealth of experience in the shape of evergreen striker Teddy Sheringham.

The former England man may have won 51 England caps, the Champions League, two Premiership titles and an FA Cup, but he admits he still gets a dose of the big-match jitters.

Those butterflies will be stirred again tomorrow when West Ham, the club Sheringham supported as a boy, clash with Boro for a place in the FA Cup final.

"I still get big-match nerves, of course I do - that is all part of being a footballer," said Sheringham, who turned 40 earlier this month.

"If the nerves were not there then you do not get really involved. It is all part of the anticipation, the build-up and the excitement of being involved in the big games.

"I am still as hungry as ever. After scraping into the Premier League we have excelled this season and find ourselves in a lovely position."

Sheringham recalls West Ham winning the FA Cup under John Lyall in 1975 - he was nine at the time -and would like the Hammers to turn in a performance at Villa P ark worthy of the club's greatest manager, who died this week.

"It would be lovely to win it for him - I am sure he will be up there looking down on us and will be sending his best wishes," said Sheringham. But his main FA Cup memory is from 1999, arguably the greatest year of Sheringham's career when Manchester United won the treble.

"My biggest FA Cup game of course was in the final against Newcastle. I did not start but ended up coming off the bench after six minutes, when Roy Keane had got injured," Sheringham recalled.

"When the manager told me I was going on, I could not get my boots on quickly enough.

"Then, within a minute I had scored the opening goal and we went on to win 2-0, so it turned out to be a fantastic d ay."


PERFORM: Ugo Ehiogu
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 23, 2006
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