SHEFFIELD: It’s the hope that kills us Blades every time

npower League 1 Play-off final'Huddersfield Town v Sheffield United'Dejected Blades fans at the end of the game after they lost on penalties to Huddersfield Town
npower League 1 Play-off final'Huddersfield Town v Sheffield United'Dejected Blades fans at the end of the game after they lost on penalties to Huddersfield Town

THE moment Steve Simonsen’s shot ballooned over the bar, thousands of seats at the United end tilted up and streams of Blades fans headed for the exits without a backward glance.

We wanted to spare ourselves the by now familiar spectacle of players in red and white slumped on the turf amid the roar and swirl of colour from the other end, even if it was blue and white this time, rather than claret and blue.

We are well-practised at quick getaways now and briskly and quietly filed down the walkway, heading for Wembley Park tube past a sheepish-looking Harry Gration with microphone poised, wisely waiting for more communicative Huddersfield fans – once they had finished basking in the glory inside the stadium.

An experience Blades wouldn’t know anything about.

That quote from Brian Stimpson, the headteacher played by John Cleese in the film Clockwise, always comes to mind. “I can cope with the despair – it’s the hope that’s killing me.”

And that’s what we hadn’t been able to avoid.

Arriving at Wembley seemingly inured to the threat of disappointment – “just there for a day out,” “it’s been a great season whatever happens”, etc, – at the last we had been seduced into believing that it could be our day, after all, when Huddersfield missed those three penalties.

We should have known better.

As someone was heard to remark: “Every time they find a new way of breaking your heart.”

It certainly was a day out in the sun, though many had little time to savour it beforehand having been caught up in an M1 snarl-up after an early-morning accident (rumours flying around of Blades fans dead, kick-off delayed proved unfounded).

In the hours before it was noticeable that the mood seemed somewhat subdued – but we remember thinking that about the pre-match atmosphere in 2009. This time it had the sense of hanging around ready to go into an exam.

That’s not to say there wasn’t any party spirit, especially from those who had been able to down a few pints beforehand and there were the usual choruses of the Greasy Chip Buttie song, We Are Bladesmen and the new Wilson Wonderland tribute,

There didn’t seem to be as much fancy dress as before (no silver-painted cutlers and Borat has long hung up his mankini); people seem to have gone more for variations on red and white – a girl in fetching striped tights and short skirt, lots of painted face and stencilled Blades insignias on cheekbones.

There was a parade of past and present kits, variations on the red and white stripes, a fair contingent of the dayglo yellow, centenary black shirts and yellow and brown halves.

Just to add to the sense of injustice, inside the stadium, as last year, the United end felt the full force of the blazing sun in the airless cauldron while the opposition enjoyed the shade, although this merely encouraged the more macho of Blades to flaunt their pecs and tats. Next day sunburn added to heartache doesn’t bear thinking about.

So we all trooped away quietly to start the journey north, soon nodding in commiseration to fellow losers in Leicester Tigers shirts on the way back from Twickenham.

But before then as the Tube reached Central London there were signs of defiance as a couple of variations on the Wembley chant echoed down the subway.

First came “Wem-ber-lee, Wem-ber-lee, We’re the famous Sheffield United and we’re sick of Wem-ber-lee” which is inarguable and later another group of lads were cheerfully intoning “Shrews-bury, Shrews-bury, we’re off to Shrews- bury (one of the teams newly promoted from League 2)”.

Who says Blades have lost their sense of humour?

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