I’ve watched a lot of football over the years.
For professional reasons, for personal pleasure and, more often than not, a combination of both.
But, even though Sheffield United are set to return to League One action when Stevenage visit Bramall Lane tonight, forgive me for taking a moment to reflect on events during last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final with Hull City at Wembley.
Because a match which, despite ending in defeat for Nigel Clough’s side, contained a moment which made even the hairs on the back of this cynical old hack’s neck stand on end.
Not Jose Baxter’s opportunist strike, Stefan Scougall’s emphatic finish or even Jamie Murphy’s late effort which ensured a 71820 strong Wembley crowd remained on the edge of their seats until referee Andre Marriner brought proceedings to a halt
Rather the sight and sound of 33,000 supporters rising to acclaim their team after watching the opposition score what proved to be a fifth and ultimately decisive goal.
Now, as regular readers will know, I’ve been critical of United’s fans in the past. And, given that this is a game of opinions, I’ll do so again if I think it’s right.
But that doesn’t mean I’m among those who think followers of their respective clubs should act like performing chimps irrespective of events on or off the pitch, Or, more pertinently, that pats on metaphorical backs are out of bounds when they’re deserved. Which, in this instance, is definitely the case.
United have made huge strides forward since Clough’s appointment in October. They were 21st when he was appointed and prepared for this evening’s match ranked the division’s 11th best side. Boasting a 53 per cent win ratio, they would be six places higher if only results during that period counted.
Stevenage, for the record, would be 23rd while United, who drew 0-0 at the Lamex Stadium four months ago, were 19th ahead of their trip to Hertfordshire.
It is inevitable that Clough’s reign will contain some difficult moments. His team, even if they gain promotion next term, will experience disappointing sequences and dodgy results.
But if those who watch them can show similar solidarity over the coming 12 months, then they are going to be a formidable proposition. As events in London proved, Sheffield’s red and white are a powerful force when truly United.