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02/03: Preview: Sheffield United
Opposition opinion
by United fan Mick Nicholson

What was last season like?
It was the best of times (until 3.00pm on 26th May), it was the worst of times (3.00 to 5.00 on 26th May). You already know all the basic statistics - losing Semi-Finalists in the Worthy, courtesy of Wirral-based M.Riley declining 3 different reasons to award us a pen in the last minute at Anfield, losing Semi-Finalists in the FA Cup, courtesy of Hertfordshire-based Lineblocker G.Poll and THAT save and losing Play-Off finalists, courtesy of not turning up (and you thought it was going to be conspiracy theories all the way didn't you?) - but the pride, drama and sheer euphoria can never be adequately described by mere stats.

The way we started gave no indication of what was to follow and the team and manager were roundly booed during and after the 1-1 draw with Walsall. A bit harsh, you may think, given it was only the 3rd game of the season, but it looked like all our fears re the pre-season signings were proved correct. Warnock pretended not to take any notice but the team thereafter began to resemble the one everyone was clamouring for. McCall on from the start in the middle, Brown alongside, Jagielka in defence, Iffy injured before he was dropped and Doane serving the pies. We never looked back, even if the improvements were slow and steady at first. Highlights? Well, it could be the most spectacular game I've seen in my life, the 4-3 play-off win v Forest. Or it could be beating Liverhoof in front of a full house and the nation at large and their subsequent lack of grace. Those present will remember it was US plaing football, THEM lumping it and Diao and Diouf taking turns to injure our entire midfield before getting yellows, though of course the servile media reported it the other way round, don't let the facts spoil the story eh chaps? Or it could be knocking Leeds out of the FA Cup and seeing off Venables. Or it could be the pig-roast, again live on TV in January. Or it could be (continues ad nauseum...)

But the biggest achievement of all for me was that we cast off our "dirty, northern bastards" cloak and walked in the sun. We had some footballers in our midst and our Manager proved loads of us wrong by letting them off the leash and playing football. The tubby bloke in nets was a revelation, winning player of the year awards. Jags morphed into an international defender (right-back or centre-half, you choose) from a midfield trundler. Michael Tonge hinted at being the answer to England's left-sided midfield problem in years to come. Our captain, you may have heard of him, was a rock for both us and his country. The Lord, Michael Brown, scored 22 times from midfield and is now officially the best English dead-ball specialist in the country. And a bloke older than me turned out 50 times and made it all possible. Stuart McCall. A true wonder.

What's next season gonna be like?
It's not all "ifs" and buts" here, oh no, it's only "ifs" . IF we dont suffer a hangover from the non-performance that was our 61st game last season, IF we are able to rebuff offers for Michael Brown and have him play out the last year of his contract - he has said he will sign a new contract if we go up, IF Stuart McCall can haul his creaking body round a pitch often enough, IF we dont get bogged down with cup games and just go for it, and most important of all, IF the board can maintain the courage to maintain the squad and back the manager with modest investment, then we've got to be there or thereabouts again this year. Opportunity knocks, we have to be brave enough to answer it's call. Oh, and if we can overcome the "W" factor, as in three seasons worth of home fixtures against Watford, Walsall and Wimbledon, we have amassed a grand total of 0 wins. One of the other "W's" left our league this year to achieve the status they truly deserve, and Wolves left us too.

Can you recommend a pub for away fans?
Can you suggest somewhere to park?
The Matilda is still a nice, safe pub for sensible away fans to drink in. However, a change of ownership means it's now an "alternative-lifestyle" pub on non-football days. The effect of Wayne and David mincing about behind the bar, blaming each other for the lack of change, has been catastrophic on numbers, meaning getting served now takes a matter of seconds and together with the camp anthems played on the sound system makes it the home of the MBB. Visit Call in and say hello, but dont be effete about it. The Matilda also now offers secure, gated parking behind the pub for just 1 and is only a couple of minutes from the ground. Come into Sheffield from Junction 33 of the M1, follow the signs for Bramall lane, pass the Railway Station, left off the r/b then right hand fork past the Red Tape Studios, then right at the next set, just after Radio sheffield's HQ.

Word Association
Sheffield United Love
Beckham "Dayyyvid" (in a Ronnie Ancona style)
Milton Keynes Bland
The Premiership Cash
Division Two Wendy, up where they belong
Robert Page Commitment
Watford Dear Jim, Please could you fix-it for me to see us beat them one year?

Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)
"watford = another season of mid table obscurity"

"That Watford better not win at Bramall Lane AGAIN this season. Perhaps we should get Bassett back...;-)"

"Visited your place end of last season. pleasently suprised by the friendlyness of many of your supporters"

"Wednesday are shite. This is good. Football is going down the pan. This is bad. If you give a shit then cancel all Sky subscriptions and don't go to the pub to watch the games either. And recycle or die."

"I am a bit insulted about the Daily Mail question"

"I thought I'd answer the questions seriously, but then you asked questions re the next luton manager, & THEN re the A-team....sorry, but I was purely BBC1, & consequently have never heard of any of them....but if Sir Neil Warnock ever auditioned....I would considered your position carefully!!"

"i think you were stupid to get rid of Dave Bassett, and i think subsequent years proved us correct. Also your fans are boring and never make any atmosphere especially away. Watford as a place is boring as well. Think you will finish mid-table this season. See you December 13th and March 13th eerie or what?"

"I cant find all the Witches and wizards cards on Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets Playstation game. Any of you any help?"