Sheffield United Fan’s Column: Optimism abounds among the under-achievers

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

There’s something strange going on: Blades fans are flying in the face of their nature by showing unusual signs of optimism.

This is not how things should be. A few years ago the former Star sports reporter Les Payne – a Rotherham man with no axe to grind either way – hit the nail on the head when he wrote that in the main Wednesday fans are optimists and United fans are pessimists.

This ingrained ‘glass half empty’ mentality comes through years of bad experiences and barely credible ways of messing up. You don’t need me to remind you of them, but I will anyway. Going down dismally in 75/76 after almost qualifying for Europe the previous season. Signing an exotic Argentinian in 1978 and going down instead of up. Going down to the 4th division in 80/81 after missing a last minute penalty, and doing so with a positive goal difference and having not been in the bottom four all season.

Going down in 93/94 by means of a combination of an injury time goal, a freakish combination of results and rumours of match fixing. Going down on the last day of 2006/07 when only a draw at home was needed and our relegation rivals played two players illegally all season. Having a 35-goal striker sent to prison two weeks before the end of the season. Losing a penalty shoot-out after leading 3-1 when the goalkeeper skied one over the bar.

Of course there have been good times, such as Darlington away in 1982, going up on goals scored in 83/84, two promotions under Dave Bassett, the whole of May 5th 1990, the Great Escape in 1990/91, the end of the 2005/06 season, and the odd cup run, but even those ended in failure.

So I won’t be optimistic until we’re seven points in front with two games to go. But even then someone will dig out that we played an unregistered player and nine points are deducted. That’s what happens to United.