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Bramall Lane
Bramall Lane

A Trip down Bramall Memory Lane

By: Chris Smith
Date: 16/09/2009

DESPITE Town having played Sheffield United a fair number of times since I signed up for a lifetime of misery, I’ve actually seen us play each other on surprisingly few occasions for one reason or another.

I’ve been to Bramall Lane quite a bit in recent years however and am eagerly anticipating my first Sheffield derby game in a few days time. I justified going there as I reasoned that the Blades hated Wendy and so did we traditionally and that erm made us allies. Well, you know how football logic works...

I’ve gone on record elsewhere about how much I enjoyed the 4 0 hammering we dished out to the Blades in May 1980 to clinch the Division Three Championship and spark my first ever pitch invasion. Our local intrepid reporter, Mouth of the Humber Charles Ekberg, described the 19,276 crowd as disappointing and oddly enough it was given that we had achieved 22,000 plus gates for the visits of Everton and Wolves in our magnificent League Cup run. Our dislike of Scum Wendy was cemented by the coverage given to their bore draw against Chesterfield on the last day of the season which got them up as well whereas our Championship win got a two second mention. Tossers. I wasn’t part of the 14,000+ crowd that assembled for the home game against the Blades for financial reasons (I didn’t have a credit card to watch games on tick as I did for most of my adult life). We won 2 0, by the way.

1979/80 was as good as it got for me in my first season as a fan and even surpassed the Wembley double-winning campaign. Just to show how fortunes can change quickly in football, we then finished seventh in the 1980/1 season and missed out on a third consecutive promotion by five points. The Blades were relegated to the fourth tier for the first and only time in their history by missing a penalty in the last game against Walsall if my memory serves me correctly. They also matched Man City’s long held claim to be the only team to go down with a positive goal difference although City proudly became the first team to do this twice in 1997/8 when spookily enough, Town replaced them in the second tier.

I next crossed swords (geddit?) with the Blades in when we met in the League Group Cup before the 1981/2 league season kicked off in earnest. We’d beaten Chesterfield 1 0 in the first game of our initial group. In these days, I was addicted to the atmosphere at Blundell Park and we had averaged nearly 12,000 at home in the 1980/1 season where we lost only three times. The Spireites attracted less than 2,000 and the Blades a few more. As this was so early in my Town supporting career, I couldn’t understand why no-one was interested in these games. Even though there was hardly anyone about as I approached the ground, I was secretly and sadly hoping that another 10,000 would suddenly pile in at the last minute.

Still, we won 2 0, and an away game at Donny Rovers beckoned in the third and final group game. Kevin Moore and Micky Brolly scored in an easy 2 0 win in a great day where we suspected Nigel Batch deliberately gave away a corner as a piss-take. British Rail also ran a football train. Happy days!

I doubt whether the 2,000+ who were there for the Blades game would realise that this number would swell to 3,400 for the final at Blundell Park against Wimbledon, having disposed of Newport and Shrewsbury as well. I’ve just realised that we won two pieces of silverware in my first three seasons as a Town fan and handsome wins against the Blades featured in both trophies. Just to continue my lucky run with Sheffield United, I saw us win 3 1 in the League Trophy at Bramall Lane the following season and travelled again courtesy of the soccer special when these words didn’t mean the top four Premier League teams playing each other on the same day. I got my photograph in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph as well for the first time, although it was from the neck down. However, I would recognise that jumper tucked into my jeans anywhere. I’m cringing thinking about that now, the design an inebriated colour-blind Swede would pass on and Val Doonican would laugh at. Sadly, major silverware would elude us this year as we lost a group game to the Lincoln Chimps in an eagerly awaited derby with a crowd regularly exceeded by CGB Humbertherm. Well nearly.

Chris’ good fortune continued as I missed a 5 1 gubbing by the same opposition in the League Cup as I was getting plastered in the first week of term back at University. This was a warning of a long run of heavy defeats to come that year after an excellent start. This was the year that I first saw Town concede corners from our own half and where our away support started to evaporate. I saw a 4 0 defeat at Fulham from this campaign earlier this year on ESPN and you could almost count our fans. I was enjoying a rare moment of romance so happily missed this as well.

The article continues in Part Two.

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