James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Anniversary celebrations illustrate future challenges

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On Sunday, exactly 125 years ago to the day, Sheffield United played their first ever match at Bramall Lane.

Much has changed since. The opposition, Birmingham St George’s, are no longer in existence. Stone Island and Calvin Klein are now de rigueur among terrace fashionistas. Not starched collars and cloth caps.

I’ll also bet a guinea or two that, when W Robertson scored United’s first ever goal against another now defunct club, Notts Rangers, there was no choreographed celebration. A firm handshake probably sufficed.

All of which has made me wonder. What will the landscape of the English game look like in September 2139? Pretty damn different I should think.

United, amid the pomp and ceremony of this landmark occasion, should steel themselves for the huge and testing challenges which almost certainly lay ahead.

There should, given that Blackpool, Huddersfield Town and Preston North End once enjoyed superpower status, be no guarantees that London, Manchester and Liverpool will still be its seats of power. But, given how money, television and preposterous schemes such as EPPP are increasing football’s class divide, they probably will be.

Change, despite what internet geeks and politicians tell you, is not always a good thing.

As owners, particularly those from north America such as Stan Kroenke and the Glazer family protect their investments, it would be foolish to dismiss the idea that proposals to abolish relegation from the Premier League will not soon rear their head.

Chances are that plans to create a European super tier, replacing elite domestic competitions, are also more advanced than many would care to admit.

It might sound a touch grandiose but if United, being a traditional and historic name, want to create a lasting legacy over the next 125 years, they should do so by placing themselves at the forefront of a grassroots movement to change how our game is governed.

Ensuring the suits legislate for the many rather than just the few. Respect tradition and curb the power of vested interest groups.

They have, after all, got previous for confronting the establishment as the Tevez Affair showed.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1