Another week, another column and, dear reader, another incisive piece of expert analysis about the burning issues at Bramall Lane.
Or, for those of you unable to enjoy a sneak preview of Nigel Clough’s programme notes for next week’s game with Peterborough, my increasingly predictable ramblings about how football can take a leaf out of rugby’s rule book regarding referees.
But please, bear with me, there is a point to all of this. And a serious one at that.
One which dawned on me during the train journey down to Colchester in midweek when, perusing a national newspaper’s coverage of this season’s Six Nations tournament, I stumbled across an article outlining why Philippe Saint-Andre, the France coach, had dropped influential Number Eight Louis Picamoles for the forthcoming game against Scotland.
The reason? Because the Toulouse forward had sarcastically applauded Alain Roland after being sin-binned during the defeat by Wales four days earlier.
“After this...we have made some changes...in reaction to certain attitudes vis-a-vis the match officials that have no place in our sport,” Saint-Andre explained.
Two things struck me as being quite remarkable. First, that this action had been taken despite the fact France need to win in Edinburgh if they are to stand any chance of being crowned champions. Second, that this revelation was buried deep within a story about how Billy Vunipola would miss the remainder of England’s campaign through injury.
Clearly, this is nothing out of the ordinary in rugby. Had Saint-Andre been working with round rather than oval shaped balls then his judgement would surely have been splashed all over the back pages.
Clough, as certain members of United’s first-team squad have discovered to their cost, is something of a disciplinarian himself. And, having deliberately trimmed the League One club’s playing staff since taking charge, can do without unnecessary suspensions between now and the end of the season.
Cautions for fouls are often unavoidable. But is there anything more stupid or costly than being ‘yellow-carded’ for rudely contesting a decision which has no chance of being reversed?
I’ve a sneaking suspicion Clough’s answer would be ‘no.’