TONY CURRIE is about to have the South Stand at Bramall Lane named after him. The only question being what took so long?
When it comes to self promotion and forward thinking Sheffield United, like the city it represents – one which is the birthplace of the world’s most popular sport but take a look around and you would never know it – has always preferred to loiter towards the back of the queue.
Currie, the mercurial No10 and his almost telepathic partnership with another Sheffield United great, Alan Woodward, inspired a generation of Blades supporters who watched the iconic side of the late 1960s and early 70s. Including me.
When TC, an England international and recognised across the country as a huge talent, was in 2014 bestowed the accolade of being the greatest player to have pulled on the red-and-white-striped shirt, to name a stand in his honour seemed the obvious next step. Well four years later and the club has finally got its act together.
The Tony Currie Stand is to be unveiled when United meet Inter Milan at the Lane, the penultimate pre-season friendly and the only one at home before Championship business gets underway.
“I am overwhelmed with this honour. This is a very special tribute,” said 68-year-old Currie, described as "a brilliant talent" by Pele when the great Brazilian visited Bramall Lane in 2007. “Everyone knows what United and the fans mean to me. Its an unbreakable bond that began 50 years ago and is as strong today as its ever been.”
Even now, 42 years since he last played for United, mention you support the Blades to a certain generation and Currie’s name will almost certainly be instantly recalled. The goal, one of 68 for the Blades, he scored against West Ham as the new South Stand was still being built on the former cricket pitch (see above) is one seared in the memories of all, like me, who were privileged to witness it.
TC, who cost £26,500 from Watford, added: “I would never have dreamed all those years ago when I arrived as an 18-year-old from Watford that my name would one day adorn the front of a stand.
“I am so proud and want to thank the Blades family for adopting me as one of their own down the years. Things in my life have changed so much down the years but Sheffield United has always been there.”
Bronze statues of the late, great Derek Dooley and Joe Shaw, already greet visitors outside the stand which is to be named after living legend Currie.
Dooley, of course, eventually joined United’s board and became a much loved chairman after making his name as an exceptionally talented footballer with Sheffield Wednesday.
His career was brought to an abrupt and tragic halt when he had a leg amputated following injury whilst playing for the Owls at Preston. Later, as team manager at Hillsborough, he was sacked on a Christmas Eve. To a man who had paid an enormous price whilst playing for the club, the timing was heartless. Thankfully he found a new home at a more caring organisation across the city.
Shaw, widely regarded as the best centre-half never to have played for England, made his debut for United in 1948. The last of his record 714 appearances in all competitions came as a 37-year-old in 1966.
There will always be arguments about the merits of United greats. But for me there now remains one glaring omission, whether it be statue of stand. Alan Woodward.
No-one who saw him would disagree what a wonderful player the Chapeltown-born right winger, who died in 2015, was. Indeed, for some it’s a close call between Woody and TC for the ultimate crown.
The Alan Woodward Kop in front of which he scored many breathtaking goals would be perfect.