David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Bramall Lane’

Progression Through Negativity

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

NC

Since Nigel Clough assumed his position in the manager’s office at Bramall Lane, the team have lost just twice in seven games, including three wins. On the face of it, this can be seen as steady progression and a vast improvement on what preceded it. All Blades fans would happily have taken this return following a dreadful first two and a half months of the season. I’m not sure however that many fans could have predicted which games would yield valuable points and which would end in disappointment. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that we would come away from Leyton Orient and Bristol City without defeat, nor would they have expected us to pick up just one point from home games against Gillingham and Walsall.

I completely agree with Clough when he says we need to ensure we are hard to beat and that we need to try and keep the score to ‘nil’ but I can’t help thinking this shouldn’t be achieved by removing all positivity and ambition from the team. The manager’s policy of playing four very defensively minded midfielders is fine away from home, particularly against teams who are higher than us in the table or who should be favourites to roll us over. I don’t however agree with this policy when playing at home and certainly not against a team like Gillingham who were frankly appalling and were there to be beaten. I was also left infuriated by the fact we clearly had no intention of trying to win the Walsall game until the last 15 minutes when Jamie Murphy was introduced. Had we been a little more expansive in our last 2 home games I can’t help but think we would be at least three points better off, if not five.

In those two home games the manager has chosen to use a combination of Lappin, Flynn, Doyle, McGinn, White and Coady in the middle of the park. In there we have two left backs, three defensive central midfield players and the worlds slowest and most negative right winger. Hardly a midfield that will frighten the opposition or more importantly provide any service to our strikers. I can see the logic from Clough that he doesn’t want us to lose but by playing a midfield packed with workers rather than footballers we will never score goals from open play. We have scored one goal from open play in our last six games with the rest coming from penalties, set pieces and own goals. Given our inability to keep the ball out at the other end, we will more often than not need to score more than once if we are going to win a game and this just isn’t happening at the moment. I’m not suggesting that we go gung ho and try and win games 4-3 but there needs to be a happy medium if we are to progress up the table. Tellingly, the attendance for the last home game was our lowest of the season and if we continue to serve up such negative football at home then the number of fans coming through the turnstiles will only continue to diminish.

Personally, I am a huge fan of players with pace and/or an element of unpredictability as these are attributes that all opposing players hate. There needs to be an end product and some creativity in there as well (take Jonathon Forte as an example of how not to use your attributes to the best of your ability) but players who can carry the ball 40 yards or who can buy you a set piece from nothing are essential if you are going to create chances and cause problems for the opposition. There are players within the current squad who are capable of carrying the ball at pace or of creating a chance from nothing but they seem to be getting over looked in favour of players who will work hard with very little quality to show for it.

The player who obviously ticks all these boxes is Febian Brandy but through his own stupidity and lack of discipline he has been unavailable for the majority of Nigel Clough’s tenure. Clough is a man of principle it would seem given his reluctance to pick Marlon King and Callum McFadzean being farmed out on loan and Brandy’s indiscretion doesn’t seem to have endeared him to his new boss. If we are to start creating chances and giving other teams something to think about when defending then Brandy and Clough need to kiss and make up quickly. Brandy’s work rate cannot be questioned so if Clough does trust him in the starting eleven then hopefully this should ensure he will stay in the team once he is reinstated. I would also be inclined to give Jamie Murphy another chance to show what he can do. I agree with most that Murphy has been a massive disappointment since his January move from Motherwell, but if the manager can coax the undoubted potential out of Murphy then we could have two of the most direct and frightening wide men in the division.

In the middle of the park it seems that despite what appears to be a complete lack of form, leadership and ability Michael Doyle will continue to be picked every week so unfortunately there is only one position up for grabs in the engine room. We have several options available in there (all of which offer more than the infuriating Doyle in my opinion) and I would be happy to see any of them given a prolonged spell in there. Stephen McGinn is a player I like and who I think has the ability to control a midfield at this level but I don’t think he can do this when he has to play alongside Captain Fantastic. As a result, I would be inclined to use McGinn away from home and against better sides where we need to dominate the middle of the pitch with work rate and simple possession rather than with creativity and direction. I am yet to see enough of Florent Cuvelier on a consistent basis to say with conviction that he is the man for the job but I certainly think he deserves a chance in there. He has shown glimpses of being a very tidy footballer with an eye for a pass which will be crucial if we are going to squeeze more goals out of our shot shy side. If I was in the managers hot seat I would be putting my faith in McGinn and Cuvelier with Connor Coady as a more than able deputy but I don’t think we are likely to see that partnership any time soon.

Our next game sees a potential banana skin of a cup tie and I think there will be a lot of neutrals who will be putting their money on Cambridge United to cause an upset. I am hoping to see an attack minded team selection from Clough with a few fringe players given a chance to stake a claim for a start in our next league game against Swindon Town. If we play a negative team against the Conference side on Sunday then this will only encourage them to have a go at us and with the home crowd behind them this could spell disaster. We have the quality to hurt them and I think if we were to get out of the blocks quickly and score an early goal we could go on to dominate the tie. Due to Tony McMahon’s suspension and Aidy White’s ineligibility there will be at least two enforced changes but I hope to see a few more experimental selections. With this in mind, my starting eleven would be: Howard, Kennedy, Maguire, McGinty, Hill, Brandy, Cuvelier, McGinn, Murphy, Taylor and Miller. We are very short of options at right back so though it is not his usual position, I would like to see Terry Kennedy given a chance to get some minutes under his belt. With the wide players and the two strikers I have picked we have enough pace and intelligence to put Cambridge to the sword and I think a goal or two for the likes of Miller or Taylor could do the world of good for their confidence. I can’t see Clough agreeing with my selection but hopefully the team he picks will be capable of scoring goals against a side ranked two divisions below us.

Though it may seem that I have been quite scathing about Nigel Clough’s reign to date, I am pleased with the way he has made us more difficult to beat and results have been considerably better than those served up by the previous regime. Away from home we have become more resolute and we are making progress up the table but I think it is now time that we started to introduce a bit more quality and creativity into our starting eleven.

To finish on a positive note, I would like to mention how refreshing it is to have someone like Jim Phipps involved with the day to day running of our club. Jim is a breath of fresh air in terms of a link between the fans and the club and his continual communication via Twitter is something that I know all the fans have been incredibly impressed by. To take time out of a busy schedule to answer the questions and queries of the fans is something that he doesn’t have to do but says a lot about the man that he still finds the time to do so. Long may this continue.

Written by Ian Parkes, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Ian tweets at @ijparkes

The second coming of James Beattie?

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

For as long as I can remember, each season at Sheffield United saw rumours of some former great player returning to the club. It used to be talk of Brian Deane returning, and that did actually come to pass once properly in 1997 and sort of again in 2006, brief though it was.

Unfortunately, those brief examples where the Deano rumours were true have been dwarfed by other instances where it’s turned out to be utter fantasy – laughable fabrications from fans claiming to be ‘in the know.’ Michael Brown’s rumoured return is the sort of transfer rumour that a journalist would dust off once in a while if there was nothing to write about, and this used to be coupled with the sort of additional flaky fan info that you’d expect more on a transfer deadline day than the middle of summer. “Browny was seen driving near the ground/at a reserve game/mowing the Bramall Lane turf/leaving the ground dressed in a Rob Kozluk costume as disguise” etc. Brown could barely have had any pre-season holiday the number of times he was supposed to be within Sheffield.

In the last few years, the rumour mill naturally switched over to the most recent big name sale, James Beattie. Beatts, signed for a club-record £4 million in 2007 by managerial black hole Bryan Robson, was an instant hit in an otherwise terrible season. He finished the campaign with 22 goals to his name, joint second highest in the league, his biggest haul since his Southampton days and the fans’ Player of the Year award was a mere formality.

Fast forward to the following January – as the financial repercussions of relegation and, more damagingly, Bryan Robson began to set in, Beattie was sold to Stoke for a rumoured £3.5 million. 34 goals in 57 games spoke for itself – he was going to take some replacing. In May that year at Wembley, instead of James Beattie, United played Craig Beattie. The loan striker as a lone striker in the club’s most important game since relegation. James Beattie was helping Stoke to retain their place in the Premier League; Craig Beattie was incapable of helping United to return there. That summer, the two Kyles were sold to Spurs, and the rest is history….

While the Blades struggled in 2009-10, Beattie’s initial success at Stoke started to evaporate into his 2nd season. Injuries and greater competition for places saw him in and out of the team, before a reported dressing-room bust-up with Tony Pulis led to him being dropped altogether, and so began the Beattie return rumours. “He never wanted to leave…he/his family/his dog love Sheffield…he’ll take a huge pay-cut to return” before the Brown-esque ‘sightings’ started. And so they continued, right up until he headed to Rangers to sign for them in the summer of 2010.

United’s plight worsened, through managers Kevin Blackwell, to Gary Speed, to Micky Adams. Beattie meanwhile was fairing little better at Rangers. Without a goal to his name, he approached the transfer window last January out of form and out of sorts. “He’s available for loan, Adams is trying to bring him in” became the talk. At the club’s hour of dire need, Beattie signed on loan – for Blackpool. Five appearances and no goals later, Blackpool were down, United were down, and Beattie was back up to Glasgow.

The rumours re-circulated again in the summer and supporters waited. Rangers paid up the rest of his contract to release him on transfer deadline day. At last the moment was upon United. In the dying moments of deadline day, the club announced the signing of two players from Rangers. Beattie’s return was surely complete. Only, it wasn’t – two loanees that ultimately didn’t have their paperwork sorted in time, were the players. Beattie, as it turned out, joined nobody.

This will-they-won’t-they farce failed to go away. Beattie, it appeared, was weeks away from any level of fitness – and even the powers-that-be at Bramall Lane aren’t stupid enough to sign someone they can’t play for a few months, particularly when the purse-strings are tight. Late last week however, the first piece of tangible, creditable evidence emerged as Beattie was photographed at United’s training ground. The cat out of the bag, the club had to confirm that he is in training – many say he has been for weeks. His signing appears to be imminent, and seems this time to have an ounce of truth to it. He was spotted in the Director’s Box at the Lane on Saturday. The fans seem excited – it didn’t take long for the Beattie chants to emerge on the Kop.

Assuming he signs, what does this mean? Brian Deane returned to United a better player than when he left – this is clearly not going to be the case with Beattie though. Since his sale nearly three years ago, he has scored nine goals – and no goals in any competition since October 2009. He was pretty dismal at Blackpool, and a Rangers supporting friend considers him one of their worst signings in years. He’s lacking fitness, he’s probably lacking confidence, he’s always lacked pace and he’s going to have huge expectations to deliver based on his previous spell.

Then again, it could work well. Beattie may not be capable of playing in the top league anymore, but could find a new lease of life in League One. At 33, he’s got a few years left in him surely and is a year younger than Richard Cresswell. Certain players also do seem to click at certain clubs, for whatever reason. Perhaps Beattie genuinely does like the environment around the club, and hasn’t been as happy at any of his clubs since – perhaps that’s contributed to his form.

In many ways, this unwanted out-of-form Beattie is reminiscent of when Sheffield United first signed him – he’d been pretty awful at Everton, coming off a season where he’d featured 35 times and scored twice, both penalties. He then proved to everyone during his spell at Bramall Lane that he could still do it. If he at last signs, he’ll need to prove himself once again and if he’s successful, he might make a huge difference to the season.

Written by Joe Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Joe tweets at @josephclift

Blackpool Boys leave big shoes for Blades to fill

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

On Tuesday night, just as I was considering how soon is too soon to roll out the “I never cared about the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy anyway” line, it struck me that two of Sheffield United’s best performers in a disappointing month were playing probably their final games for the club. The pacey Matty Phillips and the tricky Billy Clarke were returning to Blackpool after the Blades’ penalty shootout defeat to Bradford City.

It has been a bizarre month while they’ve been at the Lane – two wins, three draws and one loss does not sound like a particularly disappointing return, but it doesn’t tell the true story.  It could equally read as two reasonable games and four shocking performances.

With the exception of the surprise 4-2 humdinger away to Preston North End at Deepdale and a win over MK Dons, it’s been a period littered with defensive errors and lost points. Ten minutes of madness in the derby against Wednesday, defensive shambles against Exeter, injury time woe at Orient and an inept performance at Stevenage. Three points – yet had United held onto the the score at 85 minutes in each of those draws, it would have been 9 points accumulated instead. That would have put Danny Wilson’s men level with Huddersfield Town, rather than clinging to the play-offs.

United have not been playing well. There have been goalkeeping errors from first Steve Simonsen, then young George Long. In defence, Neill Collins is the only consistently reliable performer at present – a huge shock to anyone that saw him six months ago. The side have struggled to win any midfield battle and up front have been inconsistent. Chris Porter is still showing signs of a player coming back from a long injury, while Richard Cresswell’s early form has deserted him. Of late, the quality players have looked like average League One players – Stephen Quinn for example has started to look more like the Ginger Mess than the Ginger Messi.

The Tangerine loanee duo had therefore been a breath of fresh air. In Phillips, fans saw a goalscoring winger with blistering pace. In five league starts he scored five goals and finished with a superb effort in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Clarke, though leaving with only one goal to his name, gave the forward line a less predictable feel. The Porter-Cresswell-Evans permutations haven’t scared defences in this league. Clarke’s quickness of foot and mind really provided a different option, and though not prolific he leaves with probably as many assists as Phillips had goals. Holloway sent both players out to bring them up to fitness and form, and United have certainly been able to facilitate that – though frankly the fact Clarke has been behind former Blade Daniel Bogdanovic in the Blackpool squad is a mystery to me.

So a short but sweet loan spell for both players and some serious problems going forward for the Blades. Unitedites have been weary of the loan system following last campaign – the over-reliance on high-paid half-arsed disappointments wrote the story of the season. One of the few decent loans in that collection of rubbish was Andy Reid and it’s the memory of him that concerns me about the Phillips/Clarke exits. Reid in his short spell was a class above the rest of the squad and central to everything that worked – his exit left a gulf that was never filled. The team were over-reliant on him during his loan spell and couldn’t work out how to operate in the immediate aftermath. The concern now is that United been so reliant on Phillips and Clarke, there could be a repeat this time around. Lee Williamson isn’t quite fit enough (and arguably not a proper winger anyway) while Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is still injured and others, like Ryan Flynn, are yet to properly impress.

Manager Wilson has been able to show through the Phillips and Clarke loans that he can attract some quality to the club. His signings up to that point had been mixed at best. But while the club simply act as a fitness-building enterprise for teams from higher leagues they are not going to develop the type of consistency needed to rejoin those clubs.

Priority number one though should be to bring in the personnel necessary to offer some reliability and leadership through the spine of the team. Like last year, the Blades are missing Chris Morgan immensely – the chances of his return from injury any time soon look slim. In the middle of the park, Nick Montgomery and Michael Doyle may be experienced, but they aren’t people to depend on at the minute.

If Sheffield United are really get to grips with this division, they need to bring in the type of player that can help sort the basics out as a start. They can then sprinkle some quality onto those firmer foundations. If the club don’t – as with the two Tangerines – they will be wasting the benefits from any quality brought into the squad.

Written by Joe Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Joe tweets at @josephclift

 

The Steel City Derby – When Love & Hate Collide

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

The Steel City Derby has produced several memorable moments for both teams in recent years; from Michael Brown’s 20-yard volley in 2003 to Wednesday’s favourite game; that 4-0 victory 32 years ago. The two clubs haven’t played each other for 18 months due to the side from Owlerton’s relegation from the Championship, thanks in part to a Lee Williamson equaliser at Hillsborough in mid-April. One thing that is guaranteed is that the excitement and tension will be at fever pitch come midday on Sunday.

Wednesday fans will be hoping that after this weekend they will have a much more recent song to sing than their current ‘Hark Now Hear’, but following the build-up and the season so far, United will not take that threat lightly. The current stats show the Blades sitting pretty with 45 wins to Wednesday’s 41, so no matter what the outcome, United will still be on top come the close season, preferably with a six game cushion and still a division apart. All Blades fans know this will be a tough task, especially as our opposition constantly remind us that they are a massive football club.

One thing that will not be left at home this weekend will be passion. Public messages from both clubs have indicated the will to win including Danny Wilson, ex-Wednesday player and manager, to tell reporters how he “doesn’t give a ****” about his reception from the away end on Sunday.From a Blades perspective, I find it a brilliant sign when influential players such as Chris Morgan, who is expected to return from injury around Christmas, have told Wilson they are fit to play, such is their desire to be involved in what promises to be a fantastic spectacle for all football fans.

United go into the game on a disappointing run of form, after only picking up 4 points in their last five league games, whereas Wednesday have been picking up results since their 5-1 hammering by Stevenage, thanks mainly to Gary Madine scoring 7 goals in their last six games. It’s been said before every derby game that form never comes into the equation but you can’t help feeling that after not having a game last week United could be at a disadvantage, however the extra week has given players such as Quinn and Evans the chance to retain full fitness in time for the Owls’ cup final.

Transfer news from the Lane this week has involved the signings of Blackpool duo Matt Phillips and Billy Clarke on Friday, both who have the potential to push for places in the first team. I will be more impressed by the addition of Phillips as he is a young, promising winger who is also blessed with pace. My main worry with Clarke is the fact that he has recently suffered several injuries; as have Cresswell, Evans and Porter; and if two of them become injured once more, we are desperately short on experienced attacking options again. Ideally, United could still do with looking for additional attacking options in order to keep our choices open. Saying that, I am all for giving youngsters such as Danny Philliskirk and Erik Tonne a few games to gain experience, but this will most likely happen in the cup and definitely not in this weekend’s derby.

Another boost for Sheffield United is the loan extension of Marcus Williams from Reading, who has impressed in his initial three games and I hope he begins the game on Sunday to bolster our defence. Despite this acquisition, I do still worry about our defensive position, as our defence tends to excel one week before making amateur mistakes the next. One area of this that is a big concern to me is our full-back position, as both Matthew Lowton and Lescinel Jean-Francois thrive on attacking down the wings, compensating for our poor wing play. Unsurprisingly this has led to Lowton already picking up two goals from inside the opponents penalty area, despite feeling he should have scored more from the chances he has created, but this is small consolation for the inevitable occasions where we are pushing for the game and allow the opposition to expose the wide areas, something Ben Marshall of Sheffield Wednesday will be hoping to do. Another worry is our lack of confidence in central defence. Young protégée Harry Maguire has done very well so far this season and shows excellent ability on the ball, reminding me of a raw Phil Jones as he advances into opposing territory. Due to his age and lack of experience, however, he has been liable for several mistakes along with his more experienced partner Neill Collins who has begun to allow basic errors to creep back into his game after an excellent start to the season.

Slightly more pessimism emanates from our midfield, despite having four of the division’s strongest central midfielders in Quinn, McDonald, Montgomery and Williamson; however injuries have plagued players recently such as winger Nathanial Mendez-Laing and defensive midfielder Nick Montgomery. I would be very shocked if the latter does not feature on Sunday, even if he only plays for 30 minutes. On paper it looks as though we shouldn’t need our vice-captain however, as we have a previous Republic of Ireland international (even if only for one game) in our ranks in the form of vice-vice-captain, Michael Doyle. Personally, and I know my opinions are shared by other Unitedites, I feel that Doyle is one of our least productive players. My main reason behind this revolves around his inability to pass the ball forwards although, to his credit, he is one of only a handful of players willing to shoot from around 25 yards out if the opportunity presents itself. He fails to show the desire of other players in the centre of the pitch that is shown by the likes of Montgomery and Quinn and can be known to drift in and out of the game when it suits him.

This weekend’s game has all the making of a classic, with plenty of goals flying around and maybe a United win will help Wednesdayites realise they aren’t in a massive league after all.

My prediction goes down as a 3-2 Blades win, just like the last time at the Lane.

Written by Eddie Chapman, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Eddie tweets at @eddiechap

The Steel City Derby – High stakes at high noon

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Sunday at noon sees the first Sheffield derby of the new season. It’s the first in the third tier for over 30 years – symptomatic of the plight of both teams in recent years – but remains one of the best local derbies football has to offer.

Entertaining for the neutral, yet often a torturous 90 minutes for Unitedites and Wednesdayites alike, Sunday’s derby unusually sees both teams fighting each other at the top of the league table. The first derby I saw was 20 years ago in the old First Division (where Brian Deane famously nutmegged Chris Woods.) Since Wednesday were relegated from the Premier League in 2000, United have tended to face an Owls side hovering towards the lower end of the Championship while their city rivals battled for a place in the top six.

Fast forward to this season and it’s all change in League One. Both clubs have strung together a reasonable set of results so far, coupled with the odd shocking result, but they are certainly challenging for the top six. Though United were second until recently, disappointing consecutive defeats to Wycombe and Charlton have seen the Blades slip to seventh. Meanwhile Wednesday, since their horror show at Stevenage, have gone on a decent run that has lifted them to second spot themselves. They come to Bramall Lane as the form side.

The other novelty for a Steel City derby is that we’ll see two former teammates of each other in opposite dugouts in Danny Wilson and Gary Megson. Wilson of course also returned to Wednesday after his playing career (heroically steering them towards relegation before his sacking in 2000) and it’ll no doubt be an odd feeling for Wednesday fans to watch him directing things from the home dugout on Sunday.

United fans will also be reacquainted with long-standing hate figure Gary Megson. In 2002, Megson cemented his place as permanent persona non grata after that abandoned match against his West Bromwich Albion team – the infamous Battle of Bramall Lane, where he accused then-manager Neil Warnock of telling players to feign injury so they could be brought off. So convincing were these injuries that Michael Brown was out with a hernia injury for the remaining months of the season – the other player, Rob Ullathorne, had an injury-plagued career only marginally better than Kieron Dyer. United were of course cleared in the aftermath – but they’re still waiting for an apology from Megson. It is certainly refreshing, following the perfectly likeable Brian Laws and Alan Irvine, to have someone back as Wednesday manager that is instantly easy to dislike.

Losses at home to Huddersfield and Charlton have cast some doubt on United’s promotion credentials recently and any win here would go some way to restore the faith and confidence from the early games. Players need to stand up and be counted on Sunday and it’s often been the case in the past that unlikely derby heroes have sprung up when we needed them the most. Laurent D’Jaffo’s unlikely goal at Hillsborough in 2001, Stuart McCall’s man-of-the-match performance at the Lane in 2003 (best derby game I’ve seen incidentally) and even Ade Akinbiyi for his wonder strike at Hillsborough in United’s last promotion season in 2006 to name but a few.

That game in 2006 also saw a solid debut for Neill Collins at the heart of the defence – Blades fans can only hope he replicates that up against the in-form Gary Madine this weekend. Wilson himself may throw in two new players for their debuts. On Friday United loaned Blackpool’s speedy winger Matt Phillips and striker Billy Clarke, both on their way back from injuries last season, providing the team with some much-needed pace and firepower.

This derby won’t decide each team’s ultimate fate this season. It is in that respect just one of the 46 league matches both play this season. But for 90 minutes on Sunday, for both sets of fans it will mean everything.

Written by Joe Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Joe tweets at @josephclift

The Steel City Derby – The future is bright, the future is blue & white

Friday, October 14th, 2011

“We will fight forever, because of Boxing Day.”

The Steel City Derby of 1979 is folklore to Sheffield Wednesday fans. For those who were there it was an incredible day of football and for those of us who have heard about it through parents, friends and songs on the Kop, we feel like we were there. Nearly fifty thousand were at Hillsborough that day to watch first versus fourth place in Division Three. Now once again, the two teams of Sheffield meet in the third tier of the Football League to battle for the glory of the city.

Both Wednesday and United have seen better days but both teams are having a slight renaissance under new stewardship. Gary Megson, with the aid of Gary Madine goal machine and the rest of the squad are sitting in second place whilst United, with Danny ‘Judas’ Wilson at the helm are in seventh place.

A few weeks ago Wednesday fans were dreading going to Bramall Lane because the team’s away form was, at very best, patchy. Only one draw from the first four away games, including a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Stevenage led to much trepidation at the possibility of facing the club’s biggest rivals on their own turf. Since the Stevenage game Wednesday have put together a respectable run of four wins on the trot with two of those being away from home; optimism once again is on the rise.

Lessons were learnt following the game against Stevenage and this could be seen at Yeovil. A woeful first half was followed by a second half where some of the eleven on the pitch showed what it really meant to wear the blue and white. It wasn’t pretty but it was determined. Gary Madine shone that day as he has on so many others and with ten goals this season, you wouldn’t like to bet against him securing his place in Wednesday history with a few goals on Sunday.

There was seemingly no reason for the appalling away form as fortress Hillsborough was being created at the same time with six wins from six at home. Chris Lines could be one explanation as he has well and truly stamped his authority on the first team with a string of sterling performances. It could be down to Madine and continuing good form or it could even be down to Megson’s very obvious passion for the job that he is now making his own. I don’t think there is a Wednesday fan that cares though. As long as the team are putting in their all, the fans will respect them.

Sunday will see two teams, who arguably should be playing at a higher level, take each other on but not all of the action will take place on the wrong side of Sheffield. Over 6,000 tickets have been sold for a live broadcast of the match at Hillsborough, which is more than the majority of League One games had in attendance last week.

Titles are not won by history or a perceived injustice at a club’s current position, they are earned by hard work and dedication to the cause and this is what Gary Megson has drummed into his team. League One is packed full of teams who by rights should be in the Championship and every League One club that I have seen play have fans who only deserve the very best.

Sunday will be an exhibition of what the lower leagues really offer; glorious fans, hard-working professional footballers and hopefully a score line that everyone who bleeds blue and white can go into work on Monday morning happy with.

This season has seen more than one star born at Hillsborough though. Gary Madine may be winning the plaudits at the moment but Richard O’Donnell, the goalkeeper who valiantly stood in for Nicky Weaver, will become a Wednesday hero in time and Chris Lines is already making his mark after his move from Bristol Rovers. In addition Liam Palmer, a Scotland Under 21 international, is proving his international status on a weekly basis and loanees Danny Batth and Ben Marshall are making compelling arguments for Milan Mandaric’s chequebook to be brought out come January. In addition to this there are the relatively new signings of Chris O’Grady and Ryan Lowe fighting for a spot in the first eleven.

For the first time in years the future seems to be genuinely bright at Hillsborough and whatever the result on Sunday, the Wednesday squad have the capabilities to bring glory come May.The glory of a derby victory will see you through Monday, maybe a whole week but the tears of joy that run down your face when you see your club promoted will last a lifetime.

I think that a well fought 2-1 victory will go Wednesday’s way with Gary Madine grabbing a brace.

Written by Dom Stevenson, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday Blogger

Dom tweets at @dom_stevenson

A trio of tough tests….

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

We’re only 10 games into the new season, but the next month could be key to Sheffield United’s ultimate fate come May.

The Blades made a decent start to life in League One, but in the last fortnight have been brought back down to earth. The impressive 3-0 win over Colchester United is now sandwiched between two hugely disappointing results; a 3-0 loss at home to Huddersfield Town and Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Wycombe Wanderers. It was hard to believe that the same eleven, who won so well the week before against Colchester, slumped to defeat against struggling Wycombe. The suggestion amongst some has been that United have had some luck, faced a few teams suffering off-days so far and that sitting second place in the table doesn’t tell the whole story. Are they right?

The next three league games should provide the answers. As I write this in Heathrow Airport, the first two matches I’m going to try to follow from afar. Table-topping Charlton visit Bramall Lane on Saturday, before the Blades take a trip to quietly-improving Preston North End the following week. After that comes the first Sheffield derby of the season at the Lane.

The manner of the Huddersfield defeat, where the Terriers made Danny Wilson’s side look as poor as they were at the start of the year, really makes the result against Charlton vital. United need to show that they can beat the big in-form teams of this division. I’ve been impressed with Charlton from what I’ve seen so far – Chris Powell has surprised many with his immediate impact on a club that’s been suffering for a number of years. Both they and the Blades were relegated from the Premier League in 2007 and have taken slightly different routes to where they find themselves now.

United always seem to struggle at Deepdale and the way Preston are playing at the minute means it will be another tough match. Wycombe was the Blades’ first defeat on the road this year, where they seemed in control for most of the game, but lacked that clinical edge in front of goal. They almost certainly won’t be given as many chances as they were by their hosts on Saturday, so the current Ched Evans and Chris Porter striking combo favoured by Wilson needs to step up. The former was superb in the Colchester game which was his first start of the season. He has always flattered to deceive in his time at Bramall Lane and Saturday was a case in point – a cracking effort from nowhere that pinged off the bar one minute, a terrible miss in a great position the next.

United need to go into the derby in good form. Four points from the Charlton and Preston games would provide that and underline the club’s promotion credentials. Not to mention make listening to the games at 7am slightly more bearable…..

Written by Joe Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Joe tweets at @josephclift

Is this League One, or a parallel universe?

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

I think most Blades, had you asked them how we’d start the season, would be surprised to see at this stage:

- 10 points from a possible 12

- Richard Cresswell among League One’s top scorers

- The words “Nick”, “Montgomery” and “35 yard thunderbolt” in the same sentence

It’s just sheer madness. We haven’t entered League One, we’ve entered some kind of bizarre parallel universe, where Richard Cresswell is a prolific goalscorer, Monty is the leading Goal of the Season contender, and Neill Collins is a footballer.

We don’t normally start seasons this well – often it’s an average start featuring a disappointing home opener, and an early cup exit. But this is the best opening for 6 years when we were promoted to the Premiership under Warnock.

Of course, it’s still only 5 games – perhaps I should calm down. But it’s fairly common for relegated sides to suffer a hangover from the previous season. That simply hasn’t happened, and Danny Wilson deserves the plaudits for picking the squad up and cultivating a positive style of football that is proving so far to be effective.

Last year’s woes centred around a shoddy defence, zero width or pace to the side, and a serious lack of goals. Wilson has so far tackled all of these. He’s retained three of last season’s back four in all of the 5 games, with new addition and instant cult hero Jean-Francois Lecsinel the only new face. It’s working pretty well so far – even Collins, woeful last year, appears reasonable. We do need a better organiser in there, but Chris Morgan will not be returning back from injury for several months yet.

In midfield, Stephen Quinn is looking superb in this league – so much so that it was clear in the game at Tranmere that he was to be stopped by any means necessary. It’s going to be a hugely nervy 10 days at the Lane while we hope no bids will come in for him. Similarly, ‘goal machine’ Nick Montgomery has been linked elsewhere – and now that he appears to have added long-range shooting to his attributes following the goal at Tranmere, one or two might be tempted to finally take a punt on him. if we keep both though we give ourselves a great chance for the rest of the season.

The immediate worry is the transfer window. It does tend to work against the lower league clubs, and I can fully understand why all the main footballing organisations want to scrap it. We are in a bit of a sticky financial situation at the Lane, and it’s well established that there is nothing to spend unless players leave. Wilson effectively had to crow-bar Kevin McCabe’s wallet open to stump up the money to bring in free agent Kevin McDonald to the club on a one-year deal, and he’s said he has a list of additional players he wants to bring in should funds become available. It’s great that he has some kind of contingency plan, but it’s pretty tough to activate this if a tempting bid is accepted on August 31st an hour before the window shuts. We’ve seen it before at the Lane, and the worry is that it’ll happen yet again, followed by another ill-fated reliance on the loan market.

Whatever happens though, it’s still been a great start. It took 14 attempts for Micky Adams to get his first win. We have already seen Wilson’s first away win, first home win and first cup win. Last Tuesday we also saw his first character-building win, where we came back from 2 down in the second half to beat Walsall 3-2. In front of the pressure of the Lane crowd, this simply would not have happened last season. With this instant impact, we can but wonder what would have happened had Wilson been appointed last January…

Written by Joseph Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United Blogger

Joseph tweets at @Josephclift

Can Danny silence the doubters?

Monday, August 1st, 2011

It’s been 22 years since Sheffield United played their last game in the third tier of English football. Plenty of Unitedites may remember the 2-0 loss at BristolCity, but not me. I became a fan in 1991, with us successfully fighting to remain in the top flight. This season will be my first taste of watching League One football at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane. And frankly, I don’t know what to expect. The League One round-up on the Football League Show was always the cue to head to bed before now.

At United we’ve watched a number of teams spin out of control on their way to League One. Charlton Athletic, for so many years the club every Championship club wanted to emulate, came down from the Premiership along with us four years ago. Like so many other clubs before them, they’ve found it tough to get back up quickly – just like our neighbours across the city have experienced. Other clubs, most recently Norwich City, have used the shock of relegation to completely overhaul their club, and have left League One in a far better state than they arrived.

So which path will United follow? Well after one of the most miserable seasons I can remember last year, I’m setting the expectation bar fairly low for the coming campaign. Frankly it’ll be an impressive achievement if we end the season with the same manager that started it. After seven and a half seasons with Neil Warnock, in those four years since he left we’ve had four managers. Three of these came last season, where we suffered through: a Kevin Blackwell team that never got going; a Gary Speed team that never really looked like it knew what it was doing; and a Micky Adams team that had either given up by the time he arrived or did so fairly swiftly afterwards. And for added comedic effect, all of these teams included Nyron Nosworthy.

But despite the relegation, I’m still cautiously optimistic on the new season. Nyron’s gone back to Sunderland for starters, but so too have all of the other loanees from last season, which had been a major factor on our lack of cohesiveness (we had 12 in total). We almost certainly haven’t finished reshaping the squad, but there is already a certain freshness to the squad that we haven’t seen for quite a while. A lot of fans were critical of Danny Wilson’s appointment, myself included, but to be fair to him he seems to have seen the problem areas of the squad from last season and moved to fix them quickly. In Jean-Francois Lecsinel (Swindon), Ryan Flynn (Falkirk) and Chris Porter (Derby), he’s signed three players to address the lack of pace at the back, lack of width in midfield, and lack of goals respectively. Yes, we’ve lost some of the more experienced names in the process but this hasn’t come as much of a surprise to fans – and for certain players, this was welcomed with open arms.

One of the only bright points from last season was the emergence of some of our younger players. Matthew Lowton, Jordan Slew and Harry Maguire are all expected to play key roles this season. Slew and Maguire in particular starred in our Academy team that narrowly lost out in the FA Youth Cup final to Man United, and the hope is that our League One status might enable us to play a few more from that team than we would have otherwise been happy to try out in the Championship. This is perhaps a risk, but United fans will always be happier to see us give a chance to young home-grown talent than hand the role to ageing journeymen. Slew was the subject of a bid from Fulham before Mark Hughes’s sudden departure, and along with Lowton has signed a new deal. It’s a big year for him. The potential was apparent last season when there were no expectations on him (his superb winner in a tense game at home toBristolCity was the main highlight) – this year though, the team are looking to him to deliver. That’s a lot of pressure for an 18 year old.

There’s still plenty of uncertainty around who will still be with us when the transfer window shuts. Our larger wage earners Nick Montgomery, Stephen Quinn, Lee Williamson and Ched Evans were all linked with moves as soon as relegation was confirmed. With our season opener at Oldham just days away, it is a surprise they are all still here (though the off-the-field issues with Evans will probably mean the initial interest shown in him will disappear for now). Some are still expected to leave by the end of August. The biggest loss would probably be Quinn, who was probably our best player in the second half of last season. He would be a handful in League One.

Wilson has so far said all the right things. We are desperate for some decent exciting football at the Lane, and from day one he’s made it clear he wants us to play a much more attractive style than previous years. Our Academy team has certainly been coached that way, and hopefully the mix of those players and the new signings with the remnants of the previous managers’ teams will somehow gel together to make this happen. I’d be surprised to see us challenging for the automatic places, but if we start well then I think the playoffs are achievable. That would probably be enough for Wilson to win over those doubters that still remain. A couple of wins in the Steel City derbies would massively help too.

Written by Joseph Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United Blogger

Joseph tweets at @Josephclift