Day 248 – Another defeat

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.

We’ve had some horrible decisions go against us:

(clearly not a foul)

And then that John Egan red card in Birmingham. Another Villa Park travesty.

We’ve got injuries to key players. Those are all BT Sport and Jurgen Klopp’s fault, obviously.

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 still believe. And so should you.

Day 234 – The other project moves on

It’s been a day full of work and play. The beagle was especially glad to get out and about with the local school field all to itself.

Things on the other project that I’m not able to mention just yet, took another couple of positive strides forward, which is good news.

I’m going to have an early night, which means that my last game for the evening might just be this Wales v Ireland thing I’m watching.

A few United players involved. No further injuries just yet.

Fingers crossed.

Day 227 – What a game

I’m watching Manchester City v Liverpool at the moment. Two pathetically soft penalties so far, and it’s only half time. Neither of them should have been given (as with the one in the Leicester v Wolves game earlier), and it’s all becoming a bit silly now. I slipped on the wet garage floor earlier, and I was immediately given two penalties by overly concerned referees.

Ridiculous. We don’t need this nonsense.

I didn’t see the FA Cup game between Torquay United and Crawley Town earlier, because for some reason, they didn’t show it here. But I wish I had.

2-0 to the home team at half time, and they’re cruising into the second round like a footballing knife through round one butter. And with 8 minutes left, they’re still two up and the man with the etching tool might well have been putting their name on the trophy already, for once Torquay sweep Crawley aside, they’ll surely go all the way and hold that famous trophy aloft… but wait…

Crawley get one back.

And then, in the 90th minute (which admittedly did last 19 minutes), they only go and equalise.

The crowd, who weren’t even there, go wild. But not for long, because 18 minutes into that 19 minutes added because of attempted (and failed) repairs to the Crawley goalkeeper, Torquay United score again to seal the tie 3-2. But wait…

Crawley get another one back, 21 minutes into the 19 minutes of stoppage time.

I know, right?

It’s 3-3. And the referee, deciding that 22 minutes of the added 19 minutes on 90 minutes signals that we’ll have 30 minutes of extra time. Incredible.

A quiet 12 minutes ensues, before Torquay restore their advantage for the [checks notes] third time. And then, as if to add insult to insult, the Devon Masters score again, hammering home their advantage to make it 5-3 with just 12 minutes to play.

And that’s how it finished. If you are only counting the Torquay goals, that is.

A minute later, Crawley hit back. It’s 5-4 and there’s all the time in the world left (especially given the plethora of last minute goals in normal time). Mr Engraver shrugs a little, but then gets back to work with his Dremel multitool.

Silly boy.

7 minutes left: it’s 5-5! Incredible. Amazing.

It only remains for someone to end this madness before it goes to penalties and finishes with an obviously fake, scarcely believable scoreline like 5-6 or something.

Step forward Ashley Nadesan, who, with 90 seconds remaining, pops the ball into the net for the Sussex giantkillers. And it’s a obviously fake, scarcely believable 5-6.

I didn’t see the FA Cup game between Torquay United and Crawley Town earlier, because for some reason, they didn’t show it here. But I wish I had.

Day 222 – I need help

Allegedly, anyway.
[Spoiler: No, I don’t.]

Long and dull story short, we need a few more points on our medical insurance spin-off programme to earn better discounts and nicer freebies. I’ve all but reached my limit for points earned through exercise for the year, so I started looking at other ways of scoring enough to get us over the metaphorical, virtual line.

And there is was: a mental health questionnaire that I could do in 5 minutes while watching the football. And it promised almost twice as many points as a 30 minute workout with my heart pumping at 150bpm. Easy money.

And so I went for it. As I remember, there were seven parts to it and it was all multiple choice stuff – often the old ‘”I strongly disagree” to “I strongly agree” with this statement’ kind of thing. I strongly agreed with some of them and I strongly disagreed with others. Occasionally, where I felt fairly neutral about the given statement, I clicked “neutral”.

And then I finished the thing and collected my 500 points and it suggested that I speak to a mental health counsellor.

wut?

It also appeared to class me as “at risk” from my drinking habits. But my drinking habits are equivalent to a glass of wine each evening. If that puts me at risk, then the world (including me) is really in trouble.

And I truthfully answered the mental health questions in the same sort of way. Sure, I don’t think I’m 100% happy 100% of the time, but the fact is that none of us is having an easy ride this year, and if you actually are still 100% happy 100% of the time, then I think that it’s actually you that has the mental health issue.

Honestly, this questionnaire seems to be the equivalent of googling your headache and the daily mail dot com telling you that you have a brain tumour. Overkill much?

I’m well aware that denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, but if you feel that my having trouble getting to sleep a week last Saturday demands that I seek immediate help from a counsellor, then you’re
a) being a bit dramatic,
b) wasting my time and (more importantly) theirs, and
c) not a Sheffield United supporter.

I will be good, I will to continue to exercise my mind and body, and really: I won’t off myself anytime soon. I’ll also try and get less stressed about the football, but having narrowly lost this week’s fantasy matchup to that “goal” by Tariq Lamptey – insult added to injury by the fact that the foul on Højbjerg was also counted as a dispossession and further that the two goals scored against Lamptey weren’t deducted from his score – I feel I’m ok to feel a bit aggrieved every now and again.

So yes, football – such a big bit of my life – is still not a good thing for me at the moment.

But I promise: I don’t need help.
I’m ok. Really.

Day 216 – Goal

I’m still trawling through the 300 photos I took in 30-odd hours over the weekend. And I was asleep for some of those hours.
This image jumped out at me, though. It jumped out at me when I took it.

This is the goal at the western end of the football pitch inside the maximum security prison on Robben Island. It was here that some of the prisoners played football and established the Makana Football Association back in 1969. Football became an escape from the harsh daily realities of prison life and forged bonds between prisoners from many of the differing political factions who were held on Robben Island by the Apartheid regime.

The Makana F.A. was given honorary membership of FIFA in 2007.

Made from aging, rickety wood and a fishing net, this ramshackle structure shows just how little is required for sport to bridge gaps – even between those with radically differing opinions on life.

The museum could have repaired it, updated it or painted it white. Made a statement. But I’m so glad that they didn’t – I think it says far more in the condition that it’s in. When we visited, the skies were glowering and grey and with the tufts of dead grass, the dark wood and the solid, depressing wall… it just all seemed to fit.