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Pigs to the Slaughter
By: Chris Smith
I DECLARED an interest in the Sheff Utd v Sheff Wed game despite being a Grimsby supporter. This is because I have an antipathy at best, and hatred at worst, to the Tesco Carrier Bags from the part of Sheffield that shall not be mentioned.
The main reason for this is a rivalry spawned in the 1979/80 season when Town renewed their acquaintance with Wendy, having been promoted from Division Four, a fate that Wendy had escaped despite being a struggling side in the 1970s whilst getting bigger gates than Manchester United. (I'm sure they thought so given the imagination shown in the long running debate about who is the biggest club in Sheffield) Rearrange these words and you have a definition of SWFC: grandeur of delusions.
Since I've moved back up north after an eighteen year Tory imposed exile in London, I've taken advantage of the ease of travel from Thorne, my new home, to Sheffield to watch some games at Bramall Lane. It was a happy hunting ground for me as a Town fan, three wins out of three and I also saw my first Premier League game there, against Aston Villa. In recent years I've also seen games against Arsenal, Port Vale, Burnley and Barnsley and the very well organised games for Sheffield FC against Inter Milan and England U21s v Czech Republic.
I've become good friends with one of my colleagues whose family support the Blades and as their lad can't get to games on his own, have been more than happy to take Matthew along to games where they don't clash with Grimsby’s home games or where even I'm too sickened to make the trek to some tin shack about 300 miles away. It’s nice to see a higher standard of football, although I hasten to add that I'm grateful to have Town to support, despite everything.
I got some tickets for the derby game easily so made my way to Kimberworth for a proper Yorkshire tea before we left Meadowhall by train. Thankfully, not a carrier bag in sight as we boarded, although I'd seen plenty of Blades travelling down from Conisbrough onwards. It was surprisingly quiet at both Meadowhall and Sheffield stations and there didn't seem to be that many fans walking down to the ground. I have to admit to checking the time to make sure my mobile wasn't an hour slow, but the sound of a police chopper was surprisingly comforting in that, yes, there was a game on.
Our pre-match ritual is to get a few programmes on Shoreham Street and then nip into a local shop to get The Flashing Blade and a few bottles of pop. We didn't have a look at the badges, happy enough with our "Keep Sheffield Tidy" masterpieces but had a look in the superstore where I normally add to my growing book collection.
There didn't seem to be much of a crowd outside, but then again, with these larger grounds, there isn't a requirement to rush down to get in. If you go to a Premiership ground, you can sometimes be forgiven for thinking you've turned up at a reserve fixture, so deserted does it seem about 15 minutes before kick off. In this respect, the Taylor Report is seen to be what it set out to be. A safe environment for supporters. To think I used to get in the Ponny for half-past two to get my standing space all those years ago.
I'd got our tickets for the Valad stand and close to the Kop, which turned out to be the best place to soak up the atmosphere. I've liked the Valad for reasons explained elsewhere and unlike the 1980s, no-one seems to wonder why an unfamiliar face is in the stand. That’s progress. The MC did his usual cracking job and it was superb that the disabled fan that travelled to every home game from Ireland was introduced to the crowd and it was a credit to them that he was given a standing ovation. This fan apparently travelled two hours to Dublin Airport before flying to Manchester. A tribute to his support by a family member was read out to the crowd. Again, a tremendous gesture by the home club.
That is support. It made me feel a bit "less than" for declining to go and see the Mariners at Torquay the following day.
The article continues in Part Two
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