Richard Caborn has long wished for something to celebrate when it comes to his love for football. It’s almost forgotten that the former sports minister was once – briefly – a director of his beloved Sheffield United.
So when Caborn set about organising a grand function with the title of “Sheffield’s Celebration of Sport” he must have had, at the very least, a small pang of regret. The stirring deeds being celebrated at this special dinner on October 5th sadly do not include the sport that was born right here in this city.
Richard, read on for this column’s thoughts on the rebirth of the Blades – and permit me to mention that the Owls currently have a lead on the “we’re on our way back” theme! But first, let’s salute those who make it possible for Sheffield to swell with sporting pride. Apologies to names omitted because there are tellingly just too many to mention, but from Jessica Ennis-Hill to Joe Root and from Danny Willett to Nick Matthew and the heroic Kell Brook, this city has a stellar reputation for sporting excellence.
It doesn’t shout enough about it, so an unashamed plug for the aforesaid dinner, to be attended by many of the stars and to take place in the centre of the athletics arena at the English Institute of Sport, where Jess and other athletes have done much of their training.
The dinner will raise funds for the Children’s Hospital Charity and Sports Aid Yorkshire and Humberside. For tickets and sponsorship packages, call 0114 2619604.
So then, what are the Blades doing about joining in?
Well, let’s go back to nuts and bolts here. Did you notice how much possession they won in the opposition half during the recent televised win at Gillingham?
It’s the key to United’s approach under Chris Wilder and there are signs of it unlocking the door after three successive victories.
There’s a saying in football that “you defend from the front” but it’s also true to say that attacking starts from there as well. Winning the ball, to use another piece of jargon, “high up the pitch” is fundamental to Wilder’s hopes of getting on the front foot and dominating the opposition.
It was there right from the first home league game, against Rochdale, but without the execution. United won possession in the opposition half and kept frittering it. Gillingham, by contrast, was a display of intensity, urgency – and composure.
A 3-2 triumph at Wimbledon followed.
Saturday, at home to Peterborough, is one to look forward to rather than fret over. When could Blades fans last say that?