Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Love Is Lost In The City Of Sheffield

By Matt Scott 
‘You can’t dine out on one result for the rest of your life – it’ll always be remembered but you’re only as good as your last game.’ Games of this magnitude are so eagerly anticipated that the build up can begin months in advance.

Derby days are, more often not, the biggest day in the supporters calendar. The press coverage, online and on the local news channels, given to them is second to none. Pubs are flooded with talk of anything and everything to do with the Derby. Even managers and players get in on the hype, releasing statements to provoke a reaction.

Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday fans are being forced to endure their first ‘Derbyless’ season in three years, after the final day of last season saw Wednesday relegated to League One. The last time this occurred was when Sheffield United managed to reach the dizzy heights of the Premier League in the 2006/07 season, however they failed in their fight against instant relegation. The last 10 Steel City derbies, dating back to the 2002/03 season, are on a level pegging. Both sides have 4 wins and 2 draws to their name. Even more coincidently, they both have a league double over each other, United in 2005/06 and, more recently, Wednesday in 2008/09.

This season, the glaring omission of the derby game on both clubs fixture list will frustrate the players and fans alike. Kelly Spencer, avid Sheffield Wednesday fan and PR officer believes, ‘The derby means everything – for some, the only result that matters during the season.’ Mark Woollas, passionate Sheffield United fan and media department employee, simply describes the city turning into, ‘A sea of red and white and blue and white, filled with fierce rivalry.’

Mark thinks the blow for United has been softened slightly because, ‘Blades fans still have derby clashes against Leeds, Barnsley, Doncaster and Hull to look forward to this season.’ On the other hand, Kelly feels that, ‘the pre-match excitement and banter with pals who support Wednesday’, will be sorely missed.

Thankfully, from the supporter’s point of view, all hope of a meeting between the sides is not lost. The FA Cup is now in full swing and there is a chance the two clubs could yet come face to face this season. Mark simply stated that, ‘If the Owls get to the third round then it could be a possibility.’ Kelly’s responded by saying, ‘You just never know but I get a feeling that it would be the game of the season if it happened. Obviously drawing one of the big Premier League clubs away, getting a draw and bringing them back to Hillsborough would be incredible, certainly from a financial point of view.’

Mark, reiterating part of Kelly’s statement, said, ‘There will be sections of supporters from both clubs wanting to play each other, whilst others will no doubt be hoping for a Manchester United or Arsenal away.’ Kelly, personally, is keeping her fingers crossed for an FA cup meeting between the sides, ‘I think Wednesday would have a great chance of beating United home or away’. She goes on to echo the old derby cliché, ‘the form book goes out the window’, when she said, ‘Regardless of their current form, players tend to get that extra 20% for the derby games and the FA Cup would be no exception.’

The derby could make a return to the fixture list next season if United fail to win promotion to the Premier League and Wednesday manage to gain promotion from League One, returning to the Championship

Currently, Sheffield United sit a disappointing 19th in the Coca Cola Championship. Many had tipped the Bramall Lane outfit for promotion this season but, with newly appointed manager Gary Speed still finding his feet, it’s been a slow start to the season for Blades fans. Mark, however, still ‘harbours realistic hopes of pushing for a top six spot in the Championship.’ Whereas, Kelly ‘can’t see SUFC being promoted this season.’

After being relegated last season, Sheffield Wednesday, led by Alan Irvine, are expected to bounce back and win promotion with some ease. At present they are 9th in the Coca Cola League One table, only two points adrift of the play-off places. Kelly believes, ‘we can do it; we really need to start performing at home. You have to win your home games at the very least to expect to be in and around the play off places at the end of the season. ‘ Mark, doubtfully , said, ‘‘Wednesday have plenty of competition to overcome to win promotion from League One.’

Derbies are an essential part of the footballing world. They are a natural born rivalry and on some levels they contribute to the communities and bring people together. The rivalries, some more bitter than others, can date back hundreds of years. Mark insists that the bright lights of derbies that take place in the Premier League are nothing compared to the Steel City derby, ‘it’s the biggest derby of the lot, without a doubt.’ Meanwhile, Kelly is adamant that, ‘derbies can’t be compared. Supporters will obviously think their derby is the most important. There’s definitely a special buzz in the grounds, whether it be Hillborough or Bramall Lane at derby time – I think each atmosphere is unique.’ Best Blogger Tips
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