THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Phil Riley offers the perspective from the red side of Sheffield

How do fans of the Sheffield clubs see each other?
There has always been intense rivalry, but most of us have friends, workmates and even family who follow the other team, so we inevitably tolerate each other. Neither side is unfamiliar with promotion and relegation, so periods in the ascendancy don’t last. Although it’s Blades enjoying supremacy at the moment, we know it won’t be for ever. Wednesday fans claim to be less interested in us than we are in them – and there is a feeling some Blades are almost as keen to see Wednesday lose as United win – but as they’re not significant enough to consider Leeds or Man Utd as rivals, they’re stuck with us.

How popular is Neil Warnock?
Not only does his name make an unfortunate anagram, he also seems to have the unhappy knack of irritating people. Few rival managers and supporters appear to respect him, and he isn’t universally liked at the Lane. He’s always been a United fan, which appeases some, but this can be detrimental to his objectivity, especially in his post match remarks which, in both defeat and victory, often show a lack of magnanimity.

Did the West Brom incident last season did long term damage to United’s image?
For three days after the match, the media really tore into United. Then suddenly they realised no one was really interested in a mediocre, northern First Division team. Away fans no longer scream “Off, off, off” after every foul, and only the usual suspects chose us as their most disliked team in WSC’s pre-season supplement. It was undoubtedly one of the blackest days in United’s history, but thankfully it doesn’t appear to have stayed long in the memory.

What was the worst kit United ever had?
With red and white stripes you can’t go far wrong, and until the mid-1990s it was only their width that caused any probems. Then for some reason manager Dave Bassett was asked to assist in the design. Hugo Boss he ain’t – his red and white diamond kit was an unmitigated sartorial disaster. In 1995 we introduced an away shirt with purple and yellow halves. I’ll say no more. 

Milestones and Millstones
1889 The financial success of the FA Cup semi played at Bramall Lane prompts the Sheffield United Cricket Club to form a football section. Sheffield United FC is born.
1894 The Blades make goalkeeper Arthur Wharton the first black professional footballer.
1898 Win the league and beat Celtic to claim the unofficial title Champions of Britain.
1925 The Blades confirm their position as one of the best clubs in the land by winning the FA Cup for the fourth time in 26 years. We are still waiting for win No 5.
1934 The club suffers its first relegation after 37 consecutive years in the top flight. Unfortunately this is not to be the last.
1950 Jimmy Hagan, perhaps the best ever United player, further enhances his reputation by turning down an offer to sign for Sheffield Wednesday.
1975 An expensive new stand is built, ending over a century of cricket at the Lane. The cricketing gods’ revenge is swift – the stand cripples the club financially and heralds a slump that ends with relegation to the Fourth Division six years later.
1978 United directors and the Argentinian FA block a proposed £400,000 transfer of the 17-year-old Diego Maradona to Bramall Lane.
1992 The Blades are founder members of the Premier League, with Brian Deane scoring its first goal – a header in the 2-1 victory over Man Utd.
1993 Sheffield is deserted as 76,364 attend the all-Sheffield FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
1994 Premiership relegation is confirmed as we lose in the last minute at Chelsea and Everton surprisingly recover from 2-0 down to beat Wimbledon 

Fondly remembered
Tony Currie ~ Blades fans will always fondly retain the image of Currie, shirt outside his shorts, long (frankly girly) blond hair, blowing kisses to the crowd as he sprayed inch-perfect 60-yard passes to his team-mates. He’s now the Blades’ Football in the Community Co-ordinator: the legend still walks among us.

 Best forgotten
Don Givens ~ Givens’ last kick for the Blades was a feeble last-minute penalty miss in 1981 against Walsall that condemned us to the Fourth (albeit for a hugely enoyable season). In fairness, Givens only took it because John Matthews’ nerve failed, and while Givens fled the Lane, Mat­thews played in the 1982 title-winning team. 

From WSC 189 November 2002. What was happening this month

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