ON THE surface the cities of Sheffield and Donetsk - where England will play their first game of Euro 2012 - do not appear to have much in common.
It may come as a surprise to some, then, that the Steel City is twinned with the eastern Ukrainian location where the national team will take on France on June 11.
And, in honour of the historical pairing - which stemmed from both cities’ roots in the steel and mining industries - a band of Blades fans are preparing to fly the flag for the city when they jet out to the game next month.
United supporter and England fan Kevin Greathead, aged 54, from Meadowhead, Sheffield, is among a group of six men making the mammoth journey, which includes a connecting flight from Turkey.
The retired police officer first became familiar with the link between the Ukraine and his home city as a bobby on the beat.
The area he covered included Donetsk Way, which got its name from the twinning.
Armed with an England flag with Sheffield United written across it, the six plan to foster relations with steel-producing Ukrainian counterparts during their flying visit to the city.
Mr Greathead, who now works as a civil investigator for South Yorkshire Police, said: “I don’t think a lot of people know about the Sheffield connection, both here and out there.
“I was a police officer for 38 years and worked at Moss Way station, which is next to Donetsk Way.
“We’re out there for a week so we are going to have a wander around and see if there is anything which has the Sheffield link.
“We’ll have our flag with us to show people. You never know, there might be a Blades Avenue!”
Among Mr Greathead’s travelling companions are fellow Sheffield United diehards Russell Hunt, 42, and Stephen Titterton, 52. All three are season ticket holders at Bramall Lane.
With the disappointment of the Blades’ defeat to Huddersfield at Wembley still fresh in their minds, the men are keeping their fingers crossed that this time they will be backing a winning side.
Mr Greathead said: “With England, I think we have a very hard group but if we can get past the group stages then we could be in with a good chance.”