On loadshedding (this time around)

Good afternoon from Cape Town.

I’m sitting here writing a blog post to take my mind off the fact that I will be missing at least the first half hour of Sheffield United’s match at Norwich City because there’s loadshedding (“rolling blackouts”) and we’re being loadshod right now. There are no electricitys.

How am I writing this, then? Well, my laptop has a battery. However, the router does not have a battery, so I’m writing this offline with the intention of uploading it once the power comes back on again at 4:30.
I could connect to the internet via my phone, but that gets properly pricey after a while (because data in SA is ridiculously expensive), so let’s just wait for (only slightly less expensive) fibre to come back on and then I’ll get it done.

Sadly, as an average SA consumer, I don’t have any choice when it comes to being loadshod. I pay my bills, I pay my taxes, and yet I still get very little in return. In the current (no pun intended) situation, nothing at all. And so you just have to get on with life. But that doesn’t mean that I must be content with the way that things are. Just because we are powerless (slight pun intended) to change the situation, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be irritated about it: normalising loadshedding is not a healthy way to deal with a problem which has been brought about by mismanagement, corruption and general kakocracy.

And so for several hours each day, we walk this weird tightrope between sighing acceptance and fully justified anger.

I fully admit though that it is, more than ever this time, beginning to wear me down a little.

One nil to the… hang on a minute

Another brilliant performance by my beloved Sheffield United last night, full of commitment and hard work, set on a solid foundation of tactical genius, and backed up by 30,000 passionate South Yorkshire voices.

Some say that they could see it coming:

Arsenal have played more Premier League games at Bramall Lane without victory than they have any other ground in the competition (4 – D2 L2).

It was a great night to be a Blade and – for the moment at least – I’m rather enjoying this little Premiership adventure trip we’re on. I don’t know if people who support “big teams” really understand what it is like to have been playing Southend United (no offence, Southend fans) and Tranmere Rovers (offence, Tranmere fans) a couple of years ago and then find yourself playing the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal each week.

I’m in dreamland.

Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson has kept 25 clean sheets in the league since the start of last season; more than any other goalkeeper in England’s top four tiers.

That’s not to say that it’s always enjoyable watching the games. Sure, I’m loving seeing us pitted against the best that England (and often, Europe) has to offer week in, week out, but it still feels like every game is a cup final. That means that the pressure is constantly on and it seems that I am fully engaged, as my watch’s stress monitor showed me:

I love the way you can actually pinpoint kickoff at 9pm.

I feel like I aged 10 years in 90 minutes but I don’t mind, although I will be older than Medusa by the time the season’s over. Last night, only a celebratory brandy was enough to bring me back down from a near heart attack and I didn’t get to sleep until 3am.

Don’t even care…

Last night

It was one of those stellar games of football in which everyone in our team just clicked. Like a sweetly purring machine. Like a well-lubricated steam engine. Like a carefully made jigsaw puzzle. Like a… [that’s enough dreadful analogies now – Ed.]  Anyway, we made our opposition look a lot worse than they were as we put them to the sword 9-2: I even got a goal!

Home then for a shower and some of the incredible Spurs 2-7 Bayern game (not quite a 9-2, but never mind), while following four others which I’d chucked a cheeky twenty bucks on, and which all eventually came through.

Yes. Even Kaizer Chiefs. Incroyables et Merveilleuses.

I don’t dabble too much into the betting arena, but when I do, it’s with care and forethought, and I’m actually often rather successful.
It’s almost making me as much beer money as publishing posts telling people to try it.

Drugby

Yeah, some footballers might dive a bit (something I hate, by the way) but if you think all footballers dive a bit, and we’re going to be going down the road of tarring entire sporting codes with the same messy brush, then… wow… this:

Cage rattlage via this guy.

But hey. Obviously, not everyone’s at it, and these figures are for the UK. But with one case of doping and one case of alleged ‘Roid Rage just ahead of the Springbok World Cup squad announcement (no, I’m not providing links, you do the legwork), I don’t think it’s an exclusively UK thing.

So next time Suarez flings himself over the outstretched leg of a defender absolutely nothing, just be mindful that while he’s a complete twat, his latest urine sample was clearly unsullied by illegal substances.

Just saying.

This season

Sheffield United kick off their season this afternoon with an away day at Bournemouth. I’m looking forward to it with a certain amount of trepidation, but as a lifelong fan, it is just brilliant to see them back up in the Premier League.

You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to work out that this is going to be a tough season for the Blades. The jump from Championship to Premier League is huge, and while the rewards of being up there are also impressive, there’s no way that  we can compete financially from day one. Our basic aim should be survival, and for that reason, I’m more than ready to accept 17th place or higher if I get offered it anytime soon.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure that’s not how things work.

I’ve made many predictions about football over the years, and been vaguely accurate in at least some of them, so ahead of our big day today, I thought I’d make a couple more.

This season my predictions for United are as follows:

I think that we are capable of giving anyone a difficult time at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane. Sure, I don’t expect us to win all our home games, but I think we will surprise some clubs when they come to S2.

Of course, I recognise that we are going to lose a lot more games than we’ve been used to of late. And we might ship some serious numbers on occasion too. But we’re playing the likes of the  Champions of Europe this season, not the Champions of the Third Division, and so some reality is to be expected in the dreamland that we find ourselves.

As I’ve said above, I’ll more than happily settle for staying up this season. Given where we’ve come from and who we’re up against, just doing that will be another massive achievement. And anything better will be a huge bonus.

I want us to play every game with the spirit that we throw into every FA Cup tie against the big boys, because every game will be that important and will be that intense. I know that the true fans will happily accept any scoreline if the team have played their hearts out: we do understand what we’re up against here.

I’m just so happy to see us back up in the Premier League and I’m hoping against hope that this is the start of a positive new chapter for the mighty Red And White Wizzzzzards!