SHEFFIELD UNITED fans, however small a minority, did their cause no favours during the 2-0
defeat at Rochdale. Instead they fell straight into a trap.
Recent comments from club co-owner Kevin McCabe and manager Nigel Adkins included pleas for Blades fans to get behind the team. Which tries to imply something that is very definitely not the case.
It infers that some of those who loyally pass through the turnstiles are hindering the side. That some responsibility for United’s continuing inconsistencies and questionable squad rests on their shoulders.
Well, I’ve got news for McCabe and Adkins. The terrific fanbase Sheffield United enjoys and most certainly doesn’t deserve, is the club’s greatest asset. Mess with it at your peril. It’s worth remembering that between 18,000-20,000 Blades fans continue to pay to watch a team which rarely entertains but delivers frustration and downright misery on a regular basis.
They are entitled to their say and that is traditionally reserved for when the final whistle blows. Adkins is fortunate to be at a club watched by an exceptionally tolerant and loyal crowd.
He should also reflect on the fact that he was in charge of a team that moved a section of that same crowd in November to chant “your not fit to wear the shirt”. Something I had never previously witnessed in my 45 years at the Lane. That takes some doing.
DIVIDE AND RULE
Divide and rule is a well-worn strategy employed by those having difficulty in convincing the majority that theirs is the right path to take.
It is used in politics. Remember former US President George W Bush's 'you're either with us or against us' speech prior to the invasion of Iraq?
Closer to home was the miners' strike in 1984-85 when worker confronted fellow worker and why to this day 'scab' is chanted on the Kop whenever a team from Nottingham visits Bramall Lane.
United fans almost to every man, woman and child are deeply unhappy. Some are very angry. But it’s not their fault. False promises and mismanagement on an industrial scale which has led to five years in the third tier of English football is wholly to blame. Watching it evaporate once more is almost too much to take. There must be better ways of spending Saturday afternoons and here lies the danger.
The Blades are no nearer to escaping from this depths that is League One than they were 12 months ago. Surprisingly, a change of manager has had no tangible benefit. Those ultimately responsible for the club continue to trot out all too familiar excuses and grand plans instead of looking at themselves. Moving the deckchairs on the Titanic syndrome.
ACHIEVED EXACT OPPOSITE
Now the organisation, whose manager utters “United together” as often as he eats his breakfast, has managed to achieve the exact opposite. Should the Blades miss promotion yet again, 2015-16 will go down as the worst season of an outrageously prolonged stay in League One.
Nigel Adkins, McCabe and his silent partner Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will be ultimately responsible for that.
But just as unacceptable were scenes in the away end at Spotland. Supporters fighting and arguing amongst themselves, warring with stewards and frightening young children is no way to behave.
It also enables a desperately failing club to take the moral high ground and help mask the underlying cause. But, grotesquely, Adkins and McCabe must be a shade thankful that this ugly, spitting faction cared enough to get upset in the first place. Once fans start walking away – even the ones who leave a lot to be desired – the Blades really are on the road to nowhere.
United’s performance for 60 minutes at Rochdale was a vast improvement on recent displays, even the 1-0 home win against Port Vale seven days earlier. But the manner of their capitulation and the lack of fight that followed was not. The fact that this was so much better than the miserable showing at Bury 11 days earlier and yet defeat was twice as heavy, sets alarm bells ringing.
End result? United left Lancashire with fans bitterly divided, a team with no confidence and a manager now caught in a tactical tangle after his continued experiment of playing three in defence and employing wing-backs began well but went horribly wrong. Job done. What goes on at Shirecliffe during the week is anyone’s guess.
If that wasn’t enough and with hardly time to draw breath, next it’s League One leaders Burton Albion and one Nigel Clough’s return to the Lane. You couldn’t make it up.