David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Danny Wilson’

Relegated Reds Will Provide More Entertainment

Friday, May 30th, 2014

dw

I have said this to a number of people over the last few weeks and not one of them believes me, but relegation for Barnsley last season did not disappoint me too much. There have been some highlights in the eight seasons since returning to the Championship, but they may just be a bit more regular at League One level.

In truth, the recent spell in English football’s second tier has been something of a grind. Of course there have been memorable victories and incredible moments. The escape from relegation last year at Huddersfield will never be forgotten, but that summed up Barnsley’s existence in the Championship.

Successes came when the side upset the odds, battled hard to defeat a better side or edged away from the bottom three at the last moment. Much, much more often were one-sided defeats or dull contests in which Barnsley were the harder-working team, but could not get the better of a side with much more quality about them.

It may just be that in League One, the Reds are on the other side of things for a change. Teams will fear coming to Oakwell and Barnsley will be going into more matches than not as the favourites.

Most importantly, there will be more wins to celebrate for the fans that have sat through endless losses in recent years. The season just gone, Barnsley won just nine games, losing 25 of them. This is 25 afternoons or evenings in which fans have blown £25 to go and watch shoddy football and go home miserable. The standard will clearly be no better, but the whole experience might just be a bit more enjoyable this coming season.

In terms of expectations, nothing can be predicted until the extensive rebuilding of the squad has taken place. 14 players have been released, many of these inconsequential, but the likes of Kelvin Etuhu and Paddy McCourt would have been useful in League One. More importantly, players the club are trying to keep hold of could leave, most notably top scorer Chris O’Grady and midfield terrier Stephen Dawson.

With the squad as it is, the Reds could put out a decent first XI but there would be nothing in reserve. At least five players must be brought in of the quality to be playing in the starting line-up, at least two of those must be up front. If O’Grady does leave then the striking options are few and far between, who Danny Wilson brings in could well determine how Barnsley do this season. Find a 15-20 goal man at League One level and it could be top six, fail to do so and it looks unlikely.

Whether it is a glorious, immediate return to the Championship or not, it would be a big surprise if the Reds do not make the top half. The likes of Dale Jennings, Jim O’Brien and Tomasz Cywka (if retained) should be tearing up League One defences and should provide plenty of entertainment for the fans who have suffered for eight seasons.

There might be fewer supporters in the stands at this level, but those who have stayed will be going home happier a lot more often than they did last season.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

Wilson latest to be charged with working miracles

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

DW

There were mixed feelings around Oakwell when Danny Wilson returned to the club in mid-December and five games into the second coming of the Messiah those sentiments still exist.

One win from five contests hardly represents a stellar turnaround in form but two clean sheets in those matches is in fact a big improvement given that the Reds managed just one in 20 beforehand. This may well be the vast experience of Wilson paying off where those with less know-how that came before him have failed.

It cannot be ignored though that there have already been two more home defeats under Wilson  and the side are still rooted to the bottom of the Championship table. The former Northern Irish international has also employed a pretty risky strategy in the transfer market putting the vast majority of the squad up for sale.

Scott Wiseman, David Perkins, Jim McNulty and Chris Dagnall have already been shown the exit door and there could be one or two more following them before the end of January. In their place have come Ryan McLaughlin and Brek Shea on loan whilst Liam Lawrence has signed on a free transfer.

The two loanees from the Premier League are largely unknown qualities but have shown promising signs early on whilst Lawrence, surprisingly only just 32, could turn out to be a very shrewd signing.

Shea and McLaughlin join Marcus Pedersen and Peter Ramage on loan at Oakwell which suggests the club are hardly looking long-term in their planning. This is no change from the norm though with every season since the return to the Championship in 2006 being about avoiding relegation and little else.

Wilson is simply the next on an ever-growing list of managers brought in to work a miracle in keeping the team up and then attempt to maintain it the following season. David Flitcroft produced the ultimate escape act last year but when he could not maintain those performances at the start of this season he was dismissed, the same as Keith Hill, Simon Davey and to a lesser extent Mark Robins before him.

These men have received little reward for their efforts and ironically it could be that Wilson is given more time than they ever were for failing to achieve what they did. In all likelihood Barnsley will be relegated this season but, bar a complete capitulation, Danny will most likely keep his job. As long as he competes in the upper echelons of League One, which he has a good record of doing, then he will hang onto the role still further and potentially return to the Championship a hero again.

Whether the Messiah can work a miracle or not, he is set for a longer stint at the helm than any of the mere mortals before him.

Written by Phil Haigh, We Are Going Up’s Barnsley blogger

Phil tweets at @philhaigh_

A new kind of play-off woe

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

When Sheffield United finished the season with 90 points in 3rd place, we tied the unfortunate record of the total number of points in the Football League without automatic promotion. The other holder of that honour is Sunderland, who cruely missed out on promotion on penalties in the playoff final of playoff finals – the 4-4 thriller with Charlton.

If you remove completely the thrilling spectacle angle (and I mean completely), United in the League One final was much the same as Sunderland. So near, and yet so far.

It was a strange experience on the day. I’d read a number of accounts of fans before the game about nerves, but this is the first playoff final where ahead of the game I was fairly relaxed. United have an appalling record in playoff finals. Of the three I’ve been to before this season, I’ve seen three losses – in 1997, 2003, and 2009, with a place in the Premier League on the line in each. I felt well prepared for playoff misery. I hadn’t even seen us hit the back of the net once in any of the finals.

And so, with a place in the Championship up for grabs and off the back of three failures, you can forgive me for not getting excited by another potential failure in the run-up to the game.

The game itself was pretty dreadful for the first 80 minutes – barely a chance created by either team – with a flurry of late activity, with two teams clearly desperate not to suffer another 30 mins in the baking sun. Steve Simonsen pulled off three excellent stops, and Nick Montgomery denied the prolific Rhodes a winning goal with an last gasp goal-line clearance.

Extra time, and the switch to 4-4-2 by Danny Wilson opened up the game at both ends a little, but by the end of it 0-0 was probably the result the cagey performances by both teams deserved.

Penalties are always the proverbial footballing lottery. Sepp Blatter’s recently launched an inquiry into an alternative (though the footballing world would probably prefer an inquiry to find an alternative to Sepp Blatter). A game has to be decided somehow. In the end the game turned on which goalkeeper was able to take a decent penalty – as much a toss of a coin as you can get in football surely.

With the first three penalties missed you wondered whether anyone would score one. In Williamson’s case you even had Smithies tip round an effort thatwhat’d been drifting – just to make extra-specially sure it was missed. Up until Neill Collins ran up to strike the ball, United still hadn’t hit the back of the net in a playoff final before.

With Collins scoring, and Simonsen saving the third Terriers pen from ever-horrible Alan Lee, this was a great chance to win it. Score two of the remaining three penalties and United were up. For the first time in the afternoon, I actually started to believe that this might be the day we win a playoff final – you could almost taste it.

It was not to be. Matty Lowton has had an excellent season, and many inclusing myself would have been happy to see him take a penalty. Sadly, his effort was saved. Then came reserve left-back Andy Taylor, brought on late-on specifically to take a penalty – a surprise to lots of us who were totally unaware of any penalty-taking prowess. And with good reason too. The moment the ball crashed against the post was the moment all the hope I had seconds before vanished.

We then followed that with a back and forth of pressure penalties, where individuals you wouldn’t expect to be any good showed surprising ability – and where any miss would have ended the game. Porter for the fifth and Matty Hill’s top corner effort at 7-7 in particular stood out as being pretty ballsy penalties.

With Smithies scoring the eleventh Terriers pen for 8-7, the task fell to Simonsen, having already saved two of the initial pens. The resultant miss by Simonsen is particularly harsh for him, and I can’t imagine after possibly his best performance in a United shirt that many fans will be putting defeat down to how the eleventh choice penalty-taker dealt with his penalty. A final in the baking sunshine at Wembley, decided by the final kick of what was a drab game – it was like 1997 and Crystal Palace all over again.

So, another playoff cruelty – in an exciting new way! We’ve had the last minute Hopkin goal. We’ve had the three-down-by-half-time final. We’ve also had the final-where-we-got-two-red-cards final. Now we have the final decided by a shoot out involving every player finishing the game.

90 points, 92 goals. No promotion. It’s a cruel way to end the season. Off the back of an abysmal year before, Danny Wilson has done a fantastic job in lifting the players he inherited, getting the likes of Neill Collins and Michael Doyle to be essential players in the team when most fans would have been happy for him to ship them elsewhere. The level of football played has been the best for many years. We’ve had all manner of set backs. And Danny now has to lift us again.

There will almost certainly be a big clearout in the coming months. Various players have expiring contracts. These include:

- Steve Simonsen (excellent in the final, shaky at other times)
- Lee Williamson (excellent in the season, less so in the final)
- Kevin McDonald (key to the midfield in the season, ideal for the Wembley pitch, sadly injured ahead of the final)
- Ched Evans (excellent in the season, in jail for the foreseeable future), and
- James Beattie (dreadful in the season, and who will be missing the first game of next season through suspension were he through some miracle to be fit anyway)

Couple that with the likely bids that will be coming in for young stars Matty Lowton and Harry Maguire this summer, which we’ll probably accept, and it’s looking in some ways to be a bigger rebuild job than this time last year for Danny in getting a decent squad together to push for promotion.

Still, despite everything I’m actually feeling far less despondent that I would have thought I’d be. It’s a sad end to what has been an otherwise really enjoyable year in League One. Let’s regroup, and get that automatic place next year.

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

Joe tweets at @josephclift, and also blogs at One Foot In The Game (@1FITG)

Blades Quietly Doing The Business

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

At the start of the season, Sheffield United named ex-Sheffield Wednesday player and manager, Danny Wilson as the man to try and lead the team back into the Championship. Eyebrows were raised by all supporters, including myself, as other candidates such as Keith Hill and Roberto Di Matteo had been overlooked. Many will remember the protests at the press conference as Wilson was unveiled, something that didn’t present the club in a positive light at the start of the new era, however very few could have anticipated what a change would be made.

For years, Sheffield United have been seen as a team who get the job done by whatever means possible. Encouraged by Neil Warnock, Kevin Blackwell and Micky Adams, Blades teams of old have played the long ball game but to limited success. Last season, only one of four managers tried to pass the ball to create openings and that was short-term boss Gary Speed. That mentality soon changed once he took up the Wales job and was replaced, firstly by John Carver and then Adams. Danny Wilson fitted the criteria of creating a ‘no fear’ attitude towards playing the ball on the floor which was called for by many fans although his lack of promotions and career statistics were worrying. Owner and Chairman Kevin McCabe stuck to his guns and it has so far worked out better than most could have imagined.

The transformation from the first whistle of the campaign has been phenomenal with United gaining plaudits from several opponents and being able to control the game at crucial times. The atmosphere at matches has also been a positive influence with the crowd finally singing Wilson’s name thanks to a comical chant first heard at The Valley a month ago. The recent performances against Wycombe, Huddersfield and Preston in recent weeks have epitomised Wilson’s passing mentality whilst maintaining the never-say-die attitude of teams of old, more than justifying the chants.

Patience was a key word used by Wilson after the Wycombe game when the Blades were victorious 3-0 after it took 66 minutes to eventually break down the visitors defence. If the same game had been played 12 months ago, the crowd would have been complaining and abusing their own team which would result in long balls pumped into the box at the first opportunity rather than calmly looking for openings and keeping the ball. ‘The opposition can’t score if you’re in possession’ seemed to be the overriding thought following the game with United enjoying 70% of the overall possession.

In the following game away at Huddersfield Town, an early goal from Neil Collins put the Blades on the receiving end of what could have been one of their own performances from last season. After surviving a barrage of crosses and long throw-ins in the first half, the second was a much more open game with Kevin McDonald instrumental in central midfield for the Blades. Both Wilson and McCabe deserve credit for the signature of McDonald who he has been a key part in resurrecting the sinking ship and a candidate for best recruitment. Despite having the most clear cut chances, Huddersfield couldn’t break down the defence, especially Maguire, Collins and with ‘keeper Simonsen on top form. Views after the game suggested Huddersfield may have made life easier if the players had taken a bit of time on the ball. This result ultimately cost Lee Clark his job at Huddersfield and the appointment of Simon Grayson could be just what is needed to calm the players and focus them as they push for second place.

The next match was at home to Graeme Westley’s Preston side who, like Huddersfield, offered yet another physical threat. Just before the half-hour mark, in-form Ched Evans struck a weak penalty and Preston suddenly came into the game for the first time and hit back with a goal ten minutes later. The thoughts from the stands could easily have been to expect a spiritless performance from then on, given last season’s performances from similar situations but Danny Wilson has renewed the player’s confidence, meaning that their performances have given them the freedom to push on and score goals. This meant it was no surprise when Evans struck an equaliser within five minutes of going behind and then the winner ten minutes from time. A major blow from the Preston game was the injury sustained by Kevin McDonald which makes him a doubt for the game against Wednesday.

United go in to the derby as the in-form side and arguably the favourites for the game against their cross-city neighbours. Both managers have gone into the game with different attitudes. Danny Wilson has kept his cards close to his chest whilst commenting on his own squad and putting the focus on the fans rather than his own return to Hillsborough. Gary Megson on the other hand has become more and more frustrated with recent results going against them and has succumb to making rash comments about opposition players and budgets as if readying himself to defend any dropped points.

The 127th steel city derby this Sunday will be a tremendous atmosphere, despite it being played in the third tier of English football. The game will be watched by around 45,000 spectators at both Hillsborough and via a beam-back at Bramall Lane. The league positions, the openness in the title run and the build up has led this game as being dubbed the most important game between the two sides since the 1993 FA Cup semi final at Wembley. Anything can happen in games like this and the red and white half of the city will be hoping Danny Wilson’s calming influence can bring at least a point back to S2 following the game. A United victory could be a massive blow to Wednesday’s automatic promotion hopes thanks to the other contender’s games in hand. Alternatively, a victory for the Owls could open the promotion race up further by going just two points behind second placed United. Either way, the supporters should be in for a derby day that will live long in the memory, hopefully for all the right reasons for the Unitedites.

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