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 64 – There goes the weekends

With apologies to Eminem:

Guess who’s back, back again
Football’s back, tell a friend…

Yep:

I won’t lie, I am a bit torn over the decision to restart the Premier League. Sure, I want to watch the action, but I’m not sure it’s the best idea from a safety point of view, and I just hope that it doesn’t backfire for any of the players or backroom staff involved.

But – deep breath – the decision has been made and we go into our first game away at Aston Villa with (apparently, at least) 7 Ollie McBurnies up front.

It’s a bold, attacking line-up. Come on you Red And White WIZZZZZZZAAAAARDS!

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…

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 thatĀ  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 theĀ  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!