When we were top the league

Yes, Sheffield football is currently suffering, but I was recently reminded by a friend on Facebook that there was a time – however brief – when my beloved Sheffield United were top of the Premier League league – and Man U were bottom:

Fans of the Manchester club may want to look away rather than watch that YouTube clip as Brian Deane and the Blades tear through Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce and Peter Schmeichel et al (see line ups below) on the way to a memorable 2-1 victory which I still remember.
And while – 19 years on – the Red and White Wizzzzzzaaaaaaards find themselves in unhappier times, it’s somehow reassuring to note that some things never change with a (slightly younger) Alex Ferguson er… blaming the ref for the defeat.

Whodathunkit?

That season we beat (amongst others) Liverpool (1-0), Chelsea (4-2) and Spurs (6-0) at Fortress Bramall Lane, finishing in 14th place overall with 52 points. Brian Deane ended the season alongside Hughes, Cantona and Le Tissier with 15 goals.

Happy days.

Sheffield United 2-1 Manchester United
Bramall Lane, Sheffield
15th August 1992

Goals: Deane (5) 1-0; Deane pen (50) 2-0; Hughes (61) 2-1.

Sheffield United: Tracey; Gage, Barnes, Gannon (Hartfield, 86), Beesley, McLeary, Bradshaw, Lake, Cork, Deane, Hodges (Bryson, 68). Substitute not used: Kelly.
Manchester United: Schmeichel; Irwin, Blackmore, Bruce, Ferguson, Pallister, Kanchelskis (Dublin, 68), Ince (Phelan, 7), McClair, Hughes, Giggs.

Referee: B Hill (Kettering).

FA Youth Cup Final tonight

Sheffield United’s much-vaunted Academy side goes to Old Trafford tonight in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup Final. Now that might not sound like a big deal to anyone else, but the first leg at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane last Tuesday attracted a crowd of 29,977. For a Youth game. Put that in perspective against two other games that week: the Championship play-offs for a final at Wembley and a place in the Premiership (allegedly worth £40m), which attracted 19,816 and 24,081 respectively.

The first leg finished 2-2, (with the usual controversial goal awarded to Man U), so it’s all to play for this evening, and the Blades are taking an amazing 6,000 fans over the Pennines for the game.

Unsurprisingly, it won’t be broadcast in SA, but should we win, I’ll surely fill you in with a few details tomorrow!

COME ON YOU RED AND WHITE WIZZZZZZZZARDS!

Expensive season

Incoming from my Dad as Sheffield United’s bizarre and frustrating season drew (literally) to what was a long foreseen, but still wholly unfortunate and disappointing close on Saturday:

Just been doing some stats on the home games; not good reading.

And he’s right.

While my Dad is a long-time season ticket holder at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane and a die-hard, die-cast, dyed in the wool supporter of the Red and White Wizzzzaaards, he’s had a busy few months nipping around the globe: France, Switzerland, the Isle of Man, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa, to name the ones I can remember. As the Ad Wizard once commented: “I want his air miles”.
Anyway, because of these travels, he only managed to attend 61% of United’s home games this season:

As you can see, in the games I went to The Blades were disproportionally poor.

And he’s right.

He managed to see just 43% of the games they won yet 72% of the games they lost. He only saw 52% of the dismal 27 goals they scored, but 64% of the 36 that the leaky defence… leaked. But it’s when it comes down to applying those stats to the price of the tickets that you one can see how he really lost out:

To add salt to the wound, this season cost me around £18.50 per United goal and £21.50 a point.
Not what I’d call value for money.

Enough evidence there to suggest that my Dad might want to take up watching a different sport, or at least consider supporting a different team. But that’s not how it works. While he and I (and many others) would be much happier if The Blades were riding high in the Premiership, it still doesn’t alter the passion and support we have for our team. As my Dad said:

Still, there’s always next season to look forward to…

And he’s right.

4 from 42

I don’t often blog about football considering how much of my time it occupies, so you’ll surely forgive me this (or, more likely, you have already stopped reading).

While the world was watching the Barca players and their referee overcoming Arsenal at the Nou Camp Circus, there was huge joy and no small amount of mild relief Chez 6000 as my beloved Sheffield United ended a winless streak of 14 league games, a spell during which they have only taken 4 points from a  possible 42, by beating Nottingham Florist at Beautiful DownTown Bramall Lane last night. This was obviously a great boost to the Blades, but was marred by Bafana Bafana’s Kagisho Dikgacoi scoring the winner for Crystal Palace against Cardiff, thus meaning that we made absolutely no ground on the London club whatsoever.

“Local boy done good” never sounded so hollow.

Rather than now suggesting that we have taken seven points from a possible forty… forty-five, I have decided to abandon the subject numbers required for statistical significance so sought after in my chosen profession and instead claim (accurately, nogal) that recently, we have taken three points from a possible three.

It’s surely onward and upward from here: mainly because we can’t go back in time and we can’t go much further down at the moment and Watford must surely be quaking in their collective yellow boots as the Mighty Red and White Machine rolls into Hertfordshire for Saturday’s High Noon (Brazilian time) showdown.

Jo Flo

Incoming from my Dad:

Did you know?

Former Blade Jostein Flo is one of very few players to have a move or specific tactic named after him. In Norwegian, it is called “Flopasning” – translated into English as “The Flo Pass”. It gained prominence during a period of the early 1990s when the Scandinavians were ranked as the world’s second best team and utilised a very basic ploy of full-back, usually on the left, sending up a long diagnonal ball up to the totemic Flo.
Though a striker, he would raid down the right using his height to his advantage by heading the ball on for a central midfielder or striker who knew their job was to dart through and test the opposing keeper. Something of a long ball tactic eschewed by purists, it proved highly effective for a prolonged period as defences struggled to formulate a plan and is still used by many Norwegian clubs.

I did, actually.

This was taken from Darren Phillips’ The Sheffield United Miscellany and holds particular relevance for me since I apparently, allegedly resembled the lanky Norway striker (and notably not his more famous younger Chelsea-playing brother Tore André) in those early 1990s. It all came about when a friend in Halls at Newcastle University looked at the poster of my beloved Blades on my wall and asked why I was on it.
Turns out that after a few drinks and in poor light, one tall blond bloke looks very much like another tall blond bloke.

I never really saw it myself – I was far more handsome.

But the nickname stuck and you’ll still see me in one of my Sheffield United shirts – or that of the 5-a-side team I play for here in Cape Town – with the name “Flo”  proudly across my back. Back then, it was very popular with fans at Bramall Lane as it was only three letters long and therefore cost less to have on your shirt. His squad number at the Blades was 12, but 21 has always been my lucky number, so I turned that around a bit.

I didn’t know this though:

Jostein Flo was a very good high-jumper during his youth and remains on his country’s list of all-time best practitioners of the ‘Fosbury Flop’ with a leap of 2m 6cm in 1987.

Use it, don’t use it…