We’re 250 days into our South African lockdown and we’re actually no better off than we were on Day 1.
That’s not to say that things haven’t improved in the intervening period: they certainly did get a lot better. It’s just that over the last few weeks, they got a whole lot worse again.
Why? Because people thought that the pandemic was over, got sloppy with handwashing, mask wearing and not congregating in large groups indoors and surprise, surprise, we’re facing a new resurgence of Covid-19.
So what now, as SA heads into summer holidays, with the major holiday towns of the Southern Cape overloaded with virus? A stricter lockdown with all the dreadful economic effects at their most important time of the year? Or just heading face first into a second wave with hospitals overloaded during their busiest period?
I don’t have the answers, but I do find it very sad that over eight months since we all hid away in March, we’re once again facing this crappy virus and these crappy decisions.
I helped out with one of the school Fun Days today. We went to Fishhoek beach and we had a great time. It was a reminder that if kids are allowed to just get on with being kids, then they will be kids. We did the things that the kids wanted to do. We played in the water, we played football, we built sandcastles.
It was a fantastic morning.
Fishhoek was showing off its tropical side and I did get a bit toasted by the sun – only on the bits where the sunblock had been washed off by the warm sea – my eyes are still hurting from the light bouncing off the fine, white sand.
I have also brought quite a lot of the fine, white sand home with me. It is everywhere. It will be everywhere for weeks to come.
United lost again last night and the situation is looking rather grim. This season is going to be a slog.
So I thought I’d clear my mind a little by putting some thoughts on here.
Firstly, there’s no point in my reading any more match reports. In fact, if you’re a match reporter, you might as well get them all written up now. Save yourself some time in the long run. Because last night was exactly the same again:
– Unlucky to lose. – Deserved at least a point. – Just couldn’t take their chances. – A great performance by the opposition keeper.
You just need look at the stats: 23 crosses, 21 shots – 18 of them inside the box – 17 chances, 81% pass completion… to see that there just needs to be a small change in our luck and we’ll be on our way.
Those are the numbers of a top performing team. And we are performing well – the ball just won’t go into the net. And sadly, that’s the stat that matters. It’s no wonder Chris Wilder is “scratching his head”. We all are.
We’re missing the crowds. Sure, so are all the teams, but a packed Bramall Lane gives us an extra two men. We’ve known that for a long while. I think we miss that more than most.
We’ve had some really bad luck: look at Haller’s goal for West Ham last week, for example. A thunderbolt of note, sure, but look more closely at how the ball got to him via an intricate series of fortuitous rebounds, and you soon realise that in any other season, it simply wouldn’t have been there for him to hit.
Yesterday, two of our infamous back five were unavailable again (the first matches that Enda Stevens has missed since September 2018!!) and even one of our replacements was injured. We can’t afford to buy top internationals six-deep like the big clubs. And yes, it would have been nice to bring a few more players on, but apparently you make a rod for your own back sometimes.
Sure. That’s exactly how the decision was made, Jurgen. That’s how all the decisions are made: The Premier League and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder.
Sir Jurgen is fast becoming the Donald Trump of the Premier League, deposing Sir Alex and then Sir Jose. All fun and smiles until something doesn’t go his way, then suddenly it’s Mr Mardy Bum. (Sorry, TA – but my view on this isn’t new to you.)
But I digress. Often.
There’s no need for a change of manager. I don’t think that would make any difference. Unless it’s actually him that’s cursed (because someone around Bramall Lane clearly is). He’s doing a great job. And there’s actually no need for panic. We’re good enough to get out of this and we just need that one break to get us on our way. How that happens, I don’t know. But yes, it really does need to happen fairly soon.
I’ve been a United fan all my life: forty[redacted] years. I’ve seen some wonderful highs (not least last season) and some desperate lows – I will never overlook the fact that I’ve seen us relegated to Division 4. But I don’t ever remember seeing a run like this. Especially not when the belief is clearly still there, the performances are still really good and the effort is almost tangible – yet the results just won’t go our way. One or two games would be “just one of those things” that happens to all clubs. But ten games in a row? It’s bizarre.
I’m at peace with the situation now. That’s not to say that I’m in any way happy about it. But while the 100% effort is there – and it clearly is – I’m not going to complain. The lads are doing their best and that’s all we’ve ever asked from any Blades team. This is the Premier League: this is the exactly the league we want to be in. We’re playing the best teams in the land – some of the best teams in the world – and we’re just, just off the pace.
I’m sitting outside in the sunshine on another perfect day at the cottage, the gentle breeze taking the edge off the heat of the late spring sunshine, my computer in front of me and the blackest of Carling Labels at my side. Christine and Queens is playing on my Spotify Daily Mix and life seems generally rather good right now.
It wasn’t always this way, though. The Other Project, which I have mentioned a few times over the last couple of weeks, was selling our house. And that has been extremely stressful, with suspensive clauses everywhere and deadlines being stretched until the very last moment.
Long story short, the last of those clauses was met yesterday, which was incidentally the last day of one of the deadlines. And that’s every reason to celebrate, which we did last night, before crashing into bed just before 9, dead from stress, insomnia and physical exhaustion. Hence yesterday’s blog post*.
It’s been a great measure of just what the human body is capable of on auto-pilot. And yeah, ok, that blog post wasn’t a good example.
And so we’re all done on our house, which means that we can now move to our new place. And no. It isn’t in the UK or Canada or New Zealand or Perth. It’s here: in SA; it’s in Cape Town.
It’s actually just up the road, which makes me wonder why we are paying so much for it.
Of course, nothing happens quickly in these real estate things, and so we’re looking at a few months before we actually do move anywhere. And by ‘anywhere’, I mean the new house that we have bought, I hope.
There’s loads to do, but we’re not doing any of it this weekend. We deserve the break that we’re having right now. And if this lunchtime drink makes me sleepy this afternoon, well, guess what?
I will happily nap this afternoon.
It’s been a horrible couple of weeks, but I think we’re through it now. And we have aa lot to look forward to, which is a real privilege this year.