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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
04/05: Reports:

Football League Division Two, 13/11/04, 3.00pm
Sheffield United
versus
Watford
 
A large jellyfish
By Matt Rowson

The entertainment value of advertisements on the telly at the moment is, as ever, extremely variable.

At one end of the scale, there are some truly horrific offerings doing the rounds... the most ridiculous surely the Tetley Teas varieties effort featuring the ghastly bint from "Sex in the City", a classic example of "great, we've got this celebrity, what do we do with her?". Lazy, clumsy embarrassingly crass. And the proliferation of information from injurylawyers4u (sic), any of whose representatives or syndicated experts I am more likely to punch in the head than recruit to represent me, lack of signed credit agreement or otherwise.

(The absurdly pretentious BMW 1 Series adverts featuring said automobile gliding with what one assumes is supposed to be an air of superiority amongst teetering foals and kids with broken tricycles also falls into this category, but you give the advertisers credit for at least knowing their target audience... it's undeniable if remarkable that every obnoxious tosser on the M1 drives a BMW.)

At the other extreme, there's the latest Three advert. For the uninitiated, the full-length version involves oriental girl with cardboard box, trying to find a quiet corner to open her carton but being tormented by another who persists on sneaking up on her and shrieking in an odd fashion. Eventually, the shrieking girl succeeds in obtaining the carton by subterfuge, and opens it to find a cream delicacy topped with a glacÚ cherry. Shrieking girl picks cherry and prepares to eat it, but doesn't expect the cherry to develop a mouth and break into Peter Cetera's "If you leave me now". Shrieking girl shrieks, appropriately, drops carton and cherry and scarpers. First girl rescues both, and interrupts the melody by eating the melodic cherry. Absolutely bonkers, and along similar ridiculous lines to the previous ad featuring Japanese cowboys and a large jellyfish.

Perhaps the main problem with Sheffield United at the moment is a lack of anything terribly unpredictable. Since our cup encounter, the Blades have managed a confident win at Crewe, a dismal capitulation at Ipswich and a frustrating draw at home to Gillingham, leaving them narrowly ahead of us in seventh. The support remains largely unconvinced, however; "racing certainties for mid-table mediocrity" is one messageboard assessment. Whilst that might do for the Hornets, all things considered, United had been expecting a little more from Colin's fifth season in charge and rebellious rumblings are far louder than one might expect from fans of a side in such a lofty position, albeit perhaps temporarily at the top of the heaving morass that is the bulk of the division.

One obvious weakness in the side at the moment is the susceptibility to crosses, a deficiency to which a lack of height throughout the side probably contributes. Paddy Kenny may be off to join the Irish squad after Saturday's game but he's looked far from international material of late; it's a source of some regret that Heidar misses his traditionally profitable trip to South Yorkshire via a delayed suspension, however much fun was had against Southampton.

Kenny's form or lack of it has even provoked suggestions that being rested might be an idea, and its interesting that Colin has taken the uncharacteristic step of naming deputy Phil Barnes on the bench in recent games.

A continuing injury situation means that there is little scope for fiddling with a less than rock-solid back line; captain Chris Morgan and Phil Jagielka should again run out at centre back as they did two weeks ago. Leigh Bromby would be an alternative in the centre, but with Rob Kozluk and Simon Francis both still out he continues at right back.

Selection problems are most acute on the left hand side, with Alan Wright and Chris Armstrong injured and Jon Harley serving a ban for picking up his fifth booking at Portman Road. Assuming that Wright is still deemed short of match fitness, Derek Geary will hence play at left back... signing three ex-Wednesday players was always going to be a risk and Geary, having been the least convincing of the triumvirate, is inevitably on the end of some stick.

In midfield options are also short; Michael Tonge is unlikely to have returned from the bizarre ankle injury picked up during the cup game, and with Harley injured Alan Quinn looks like playing on the left hand side. Either Andy Gray or boo-boy Nick Montgomery, who played in the Cup tie but is since reputed to have handed in a transfer request, will fill the hole created in the middle. Paul Thirlwell should play a holding role... usually thought of a direct alternative to Montgomery, one cynical correspondent on the United boards equated their comparison to that of Aldi and Netto. Andy Liddell, who looked lively a fortnight ago, will be on the right

Up front, the favoured combination in recent weeks has seen Paul Shaw, often our nemesis but taker of the decisively missed penalty, partnered with Danny Cadamarteri who, like Geary, was cup tied during our last encounter. Cadamarteri has only scored one in seven for the Blades but has generally won friends since his arrival from Leeds. Gray and Jack Lester are obvious alternatives, whilst youngster Jonathan Forte is likely to be on the bench.

Tuesday night's tremendous result puts a new slant on what was already an important League game. Whilst the feeble opposition put up by Southampton should in itself limit the dangers of both exhaustion and over-confidence, it will be interesting to assess how these two risks compete with the inevitable momentum the result will have given us. Last year's nonetheless entertaining draw at Bramall Lane interrupted a run of victories in south Sheffield to which Saturday will hopefully see a welcome return.