Alan Biggs: "Most important new arrivals at Bramall Lane will be the supporters"

The most important “new arrivals” at Bramall Lane this summer will be the supporters.

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 9:11 am
Fans watch on from the stands prior to the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Burnley at Bramall Lane in May.

It sounds trite but it’s true. Whatever signings finally materialise, no incomer will beat the impact of fans returning to the stadium.No club suffered more from their absence during the lockdown than Sheffield United. It’s been said before, here and elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating.Prior to the pandemic, the Blades played to the best atmosphere in the stadium I, for one, have ever known. And I’m going back more than 45-years on that front - including the successful eras under Dave Bassett and Neil Warnock.I wasn’t working further back but, from vivid memory, I’d even venture that the atmosphere generated between 2017 and early 2020 surpassed the soundtrack to the John Harris days of Tony Currie and Alan Woodward.Again, that might sound a bit glib, but more recently there have been factors at play including the development of the ground into a compact, relatively modern closed-in stadium - where once, in times of cricket, it was three-sided.Bigger crowds could attend in those days. I recall standing halfway to the cricket side in a throng of 41,000 for a virtually promotion-clinching 5-1 romp over rivals Cardiff City in 1971.But some of the bedlam naturally escaped whereas the Lane has been an absolute cauldron of noise in the modern era.I mention because it was those clubs who were struggling who had more to gain, or shall we say less to lose, when the gates were closed in the summer resumption of the 2019-20 season.United at the time were scarcely believably in the hunt for a European spot. There had never, in my experience, been a closer connection between supporters and the club.Which is one hell of a lot to lose. And, while not an excuse in isolation, it is a credible contributor to the sad fact of supporters returning to find a team relegated back to the Championship.If anything good, in football terms, has come from the pandemic it is a realisation of something that has been under-appreciated for too long; that fans are the lifeblood of the game.So whoever Slavisa Jokanovic manages to sign in the run-up to the new campaign, it won’t top the re-acquisition of a crowd.