Sheffield United fans column: Our middle men draw comparisons with old Lane heroes

Trevor Hockey
Trevor Hockey

Watching the midfield masterclass – relative to the level United are playing at anyway – put on by Mark Duffy, John Fleck and Paul Coutts last Saturday revived memories of top-class Blades midfield combinations of the past.

Its notoriously difficult to compare players and teams from different eras, especially when a variety of formations are used, but if we are to compare (and we are) then the midfield of five seasons ago – when United were in the same division – is the most obvious.

That was 4-4-2 of course, and comprised Kevin McDonald and Michael Doyle flanked by Stephen Quinn and Lee Williamson. Would any of these players displace any of the current three?

Possibly, but the fun here is that you can decide for yourself as there is no incorrect answer.

Going back further, and in a higher division, in the 2005/06 promotion season we had – usually – Phil Jagielka and Nick Montgomery in the middle and Michael Tonge and Paul Ifill wide. They – plus Alan Quinn – were seriously good at that level. Good enough to go up in fact. Three years before that Michael Brown and Stuart McCall (aided by Michael Tonge and Peter Ndlovu) made up what was probably United’s best midfield partnership since the one claimed by older Blades fans to be the best in living memory.

That was of course the legendary pairing of Tony Currie and Trevor Hockey, who thrilled us with their amalgam of sheer class and sheer doggedness. In fact that’s being a bit harsh on Hockey, who started out as a winger, so must have had some skill.

By the time he arrived at United his mop of hair and bushy beard made for a fearsome sight. He was clever enough to realise that the best thing he could do was win the ball and give it to TC. And to think they had Alan Woodward and Geoff Salmons at their side.

Coutts, Fleck and Duffy have a way to go yet.