Sheffield United

Sheffield United vs Shrewsbury Town, SkyBet League One, 19/11/16, Bramall Lane

It was to be an early start to today, as although the journey to Sheffield would only take around an hour and forty five minutes, my Manchester United supporting dad, and my Arsenal supporting mum insisted that we get to Sheffield in plenty of time so that they could watch the early kick off. As a kid I had followed my dad and supported Manchester United, but Shrewsbury Town were always the team my parents agreed on, and at the age of 13 I decided that I’d had enough of the Premier League and instead decided that I was a Shrewsbury Town fan first and foremost. So at 10am, we left my house in Chorley and began to make our way to Sheffield, with the highlight of the journey being the A57, Snake Pass, where the top was covered in snow, being from London I’ve not really experienced proper snow before so I insisted on stopping the car, and jumping out for some photos, before deciding that it was too cold.

We soon found ourselves in Sheffield, and quickly found a car-park near to the ground, from there we began our hunt for a pub with SkySports, however this wasn’t to be an easy task, and in the end we ended up in Yates, sitting uncomfortably close to the screen. To be fair though, I did spot plenty of real-ale pubs, and I’ll have to hope that Shrewsbury draw Sheffield Wednesday away in a cup competition, to give me the excuse to try these pubs out. Following lunch, and a 1-1 draw, we headed back down to Bramall Lane. With my tickets already having been paid for, the only purchase I needed to make was the programmes for the match, and after paying £6 for two programmes (£3 each for those that can’t be bothered with maths), we located the turnstiles. Bramall Lane has the new scanner turnstiles, where you insert your ticket into a barcode reader, and once the barcode has been read the turnstile beeps, and you gain entrance to the ground.

Once in the ground we headed up to our concourse, and had a look around, the facilities are smart, with large toilets, a betting shop, and a large refreshment hut which had clear areas to queue. With 3pm approaching, we walked up to our seats, with mine being out in the aisle, probably where steps should have been, but the view was a good one, with the steep stand meaning that it felt like you were closer to the action, and the height meaning you could see more of the pitch. To be honest I spent most of my time before the match in awe of my surroundings, Sheffield United have a ground to be proud of, and hopefully this ground will grace the Premier League again, as it deserves to hold top-class football.

Bramall Lane holds the title of being the oldest major stadium in the world still to be hosting professional football matches, and was first used in 1855 as it began life as a cricket ground. Originally six clubs played at Bramall Lane, with one of the being the Wednesday Cricket Club. Football was first played at Bramall Lane on the 29th December 1862, between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC, with the match ending 0-0. Bramall Lane held a number of important local matches, and for several years, between 1880 and 1887, it was home to a team called The Wednesday, who would go on to become Sheffield Wednesday. On March 22nd 1889, it was decided to create a new team to call Bramall Lane home, and that team were to be named Sheffield United after the cricket team. Cricket was to be played at Bramall Lane until 1973, when the last test was played on the 4th, 6th and 7th of August 1973, with the match finishing in a draw against Lancashire. The away fans were housed in the Redbrik Estate Agency Stand, which is the oldest stand at Bramall Lane, as the two-tiered stand was opened in 1966. To the right of the Redbrik Estate Agency Stand, is the South Stand, which is essentially the Main Stand, this stand was opened in 1975, and stands on the former sight of the cricket pitch’s outfield, this stand houses the changing rooms, and dugouts, along with the clubs main facilities. Behind the other goal stands the Kop Stand, which was seated in 1991, this stand was built into a hillside situated behind the goal, and recent expansion plans have been situated around this stand, with the idea to make it the largest Kop in the country. Along the other touchline, stands the John Street Stand, which was completed in 1996, and is used as a family enclosure, housing just under 7,000 fans, the stand looks to have great views from it. The corners have also been filled in between most of the stands, with the Kop Corner being completed in 2001, this stand is fully linked to the John Street Stand, and is also used as a family enclosure. Between the Redbrik Estate Agency Stand and the South Stand is the Westfield Health Stand, which houses 2,000 fans, and reputedly has the best views of the ground, although curiously season tickets are not available in this stand. Finally, between the Redbrik Estate Agency Stand and the John Street Stand, is the Blades Enterprise Centre, which is filled with rentable offices, which is a clever way to maximise income streams.

As I’ve already mentioned, Sheffield United FC were formed in 1889, and were named after the cricket club that played at Bramall Lane, they are nicknamed the Blades, after Sheffield’s history of steel production. United’s heyday came in the 30 year period between 1895 to 1925, as they were champions of England in the 1897 to 1898 season, and runners up in the 1896 to 1897 and 1899 to 1900 season. Sheffield United were FA Cup winners in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925. Unfortunately United have not won a trophy since 1925, excluding those associated with promotion from the lower-leagues. Their darkest days came between 1975 and 1981, as they were relegated in the 1975 to 1976 season down to the Second Division, and three years later they fell into the Third Division, although the all-time low was to come in 1981, when they were relegated to the Fourth Division, but in their first season in the league’s basement division they were champions, and two years afterwards they won promotion to the Second Division. United did fall back to the Third Division in 1988, but new manager Dave Bassett masterminded a quick revival, which launched the Blades forwards again, United returned to the First Division in 1990, after a 14 year exile, however they were to be relegated in 1994. United remained outside of the top flight for the next 12 years, and were struggling at the wrong end of Division One when Neil Warnock was appointed manager in December 1999, despite a financial crisis preventing the club from boosting their squad, they enjoyed their most successful season for a decade, in the 2002 to 2003 season, as they reached the semi-finals of both domestic cups and also reached the Division One Play Off Final, where they were beaten by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Three years later, Warnock delivered a Premier League return as the Blades finished runners up in the Championship. However their return was to be brief, with United being relegated in 2007, amidst the controversy surrounding Carlos Tevez, a player signed by West Ham and whose performances played a big part in their remarkable escape from relegation, Warnock was to resign from his role at the Blades, and the FA tightened their rules around third party ownership. The Blades struggled to come to turns with life back in the Championship, and a period of decline set in, which wasn’t helped by a spiralling wage bill and a succession of managers. The 2010 to 2011 season was a disaster, and the Blades were relegated to League One. United have been stuck in League One ever since, and have come close on a number of occasions to gaining promotion, however promotion has eluded them.

I have covered Shrewsbury Town’s history before, and I won’t repeat it again, instead I’ll post a link to one of my blogs where I’ve covered the history before which will be here: History. Recently we have appointed a new manager in Paul Hurst, and results have begun to improve, with our recent form seeing us draw with Southend and beat Barnet, Middlesborough Under 21s and Oxford United, with Town lifting themselves from the bottom of the League. Hurst has bought in a lot of positivity to the club, and I’m glad he was appointed, as he seems to be the man that will save us from relegation.

For those of you that have read through that Wigan blog you may have noticed something at the end. For those of you that didn’t click on that blog, I’ll post what I have written at the end of the Wigan blog here: “I’m not going to say anything about Darren Deadman, as I was raised to say nothing if I had nothing nice to say. I feel that both teams and both sets of fans can feel annoyed with his performance, as he did miss a number of incidents. Then again this is Darren Deadman, he’s not very good.”

So you can probably imagine the absolute joy I felt when I heard that Darren Deadman was to be the referee for this game. If you’ve never had Darren Deadman officiate a game involving your side, then just google his name, it’s not only Shrewsbury fans that hate him, although he does seem to hate us more than most.

It didn’t take long for Sheffield United to open the scoring as Billy Sharp found himself in plenty of space on the edge of the area, and with all the time in the world he cut into the box, and fired low and hard past Mark Halstead in the Salop goal, giving United the lead in the 7th minute.

The Blades were forced in to an early change, as in the 9th minute, Mark Duffy left the pitch to be replaced by Stefan Scougall. Duffy did seem to be limping, and hopefully it isn’t anything too serious.

Deadman decided to make his presence known in the 20th minute, as he awarded United a penalty, following a challenge in the box. Daniel Lafferty had broken into the box, but he was closely followed by Jim O’Brien, and O’Brien put in a sliding tackle, and he looked to have won the ball, however Deadman pointed to the spot, but in all fairness that wasn’t the worst part of his decision. For whatever reason, and I really wouldn’t want to speculate on what goes on in the mind of Darren Deadman, he decided to send O’Brien off. The only reason I can think of why, would be O’Brien’s reaction to the penalty, as O’Brien did get angry with the ref, as most players would, but it was never a red card, as a yellow would have sufficed. From the penalty spot, Billy Sharp stepped up, but Mark Halstead got a hand to the penalty, and kept the ball out.

It didn’t take long at all though for United to double their lead, as in the 24th minute, the ball was delivered to the back post, where a United player headed the ball back to set up Scougall who fired the ball past Halstead.

Deadman was getting a fair amount of abuse from the Salop fans, myself included, which would make me a hypocrite, as I had been chatting to a Bootle fan last week, about how referees do a difficult job, and without them we wouldn’t be able to watch the game we love. But in all honesty if it was a choice between getting to the game and finding out the match had been abandoned due to Darren Deadman not turning up, or watching Darren Deadman officiate a game, I would take the abandoned match, as Darren Deadman is simply clueless.

Things were to get worse for Salop as in around the 47th minute, Abu Ogogo received his marching orders, meaning Salop found themselves down to 9 men. Abu went in to a challenge with Paul Coutts a touch late, and he did catch Coutts, leaving the United man in a heap on the floor. Unlike the O’Brien sending off, Deadman didn’t hesitate and went straight for the red card, leaving me feeling as if we should just get ourselves down to 6 men and have the game abandoned, but what kind of team would do something like that? Oh wait, well this is awkward… Oh dear (I’m joking by the way, before people grab their pitchforks.) This was obviously a poor occasion for the Blades and I’m sure that they don’t want to remember this.

Half time Sheffield United 2-0 Shrewsbury Town (Sharp 7, Scougall 24)

With Town 2-0 down, and with only 9 men on the pitch, I was expecting the floodgates to open, and decided to drown my sorrows with a bottle of Carling, which I paid £4 for. Meanwhile as I was drinking my Carling, Paul Hurst was making his tactical adjustments, and at half time Sylvan Ebanks Blake and Ian Black, came on to replace AJ Leitch Smith and the ineffective Ivan Toney. Sheffield United also made a change with Paul Coutts being replaced by Jack O’Connell.

Shrewsbury now looked to be playing a 4-3-1, with us sitting deep in our own half to keep the scoreline down, and in all fairness it worked. However we were helped by the fact that Mark Halstead was having one of his best games in a Shrewsbury shirt, as he kept out everything that United threw at him in the second half.

With our chances to get forward limited, we had to make the most of every opportunity to break forward, and to be fair we still looked dangerous when we crossed the half way line.

Sheffield United were forced into another change in the 59th minute, as Kieron Freeman went up for a header with Sylvan Ebanks Blake, and the momentum from Blake’s jump into the header saw him flatten Freeman, and land on the poor bloke, and from the size of Blake it must have been like having a tonne of bricks land on Freeman, and he gingerly made his way to the touchline, where he went down again, and was replaced by Harry Chapman. Freeman didn’t seem to be moving too well as he made his way around the pitch, and I hope that he hasn’t suffered too bad an injury, as he’s obviously a talented lad.

There was to be another goal in this game, and it was to be a lifeline for Salop, as we broke over the halfway line, with Ebanks-Blake holding up possession, Town regrouped, and the ball was played to Deegan, who swung the ball into the box, where Louis Dodds was on hand to put in a great finish past Moore to make it 2-1, and give Salop a glimmer of hope.

Both sides were to have chances before the end of the game, but neither side were to capitalise on these chances, and as I have already said, Halstead had an amazing game, and if it hadn’t had been for him, the scoreline could have been a lot higher.

Final Score: Sheffield United 2-1 Shrewsbury Town (Sharp 7, Scougall 24 – Dodds 74)

As I left Bramall Lane, I did feel disappointed that we hadn’t come away with at least a point, as we played well for a team with only 9 men on the pitch, however as I look back on it now, United deserved the 3 points, as they played brilliantly, especially in the first half. United may have been helped by us going down to 9 men, but in all fairness, they didn’t score when we only had 9 men on the pitch.

Bramall Lane is simply a superb stadium, and I’d like to see it back in the Premier League, as it is a ground that should be hosting the top teams in English Football. United do have some plans for Bramall Lane, which’ll further extend the capacity, and if the FA ever come to their senses, and stop playing FA Cup Semi Finals at Wembley, I’d like to see Bramall Lane used instead.

A win for the Blades sees them sit in 2nd in the League, in the automatic promotion places, and although they are six points behind leaders Scunthorpe, they do have a game in hand, and if they keep their form up, I would put them down as contenders for automatic promotion.

Defeat for Salop, sees us remain in 23rd place, and we are only two points above Chesterfield who occupy 24th. We are five points from safety, but I fully believe that Paul Hurst will be the man to save us this season. Our next game sees us travel to Fleetwood, and I’ll be in attendance for that match, although it won’t be easy as Fleetwood currently occupy 10th in the league, but if we show the same spirit as we did today, then we should be alright.

With my parents staying at my house, it meant that I was treated to Strictly Come Dancing, as well as my wife’s choice of the X Factor, which was a fantastic way to end today (I’m being sarcastic, I hate both shows with a passion.).

Finally I should really mention Darren Deadman, but I honestly don’t want to. I had planned to write a paragraph explaining why he is such an incompetent fool, but I can’t be bothered, as it would involve too many words, I’ll just leave it with this: Whilst I hope no harm ever comes to Deadman, as I wouldn’t wish that on a fellow human being, whose only crime is being a terrible referee, I wouldn’t go out of my way to help him either. If he was broken down at the side of the road, I would simply drive past, as long as he wasn’t in any immediate danger, and if I see him officiate a Shrewsbury match in the next ten years, it’ll be ten years too soon. Darren Deadman you are a moron, and I am struggling to understand how you continue to officiate in any of the leagues in England.

Attendance: 20,195 (549 from Salop)

Cost: £10 (If I had paid for my ticket it would have been £20, which is reasonable for this level!)

Movember Total: £4.50 (£1.50 from today’s game)

Hat-tricks seen so far: 0

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139632000@N07/albums/72157676853976585

Oh and finally, above the men’s toilets there is a door, what is that door for? Where does it lead? Does anyone know?

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