Thursday, 17 October 2013

Breaking Point

It was a Friday, The Blades were on television, The oldest Football League Club Notts County our opponent, playing at the worlds oldest Professional football ground in the year The Football League had begun celebrations of their one hundred and twenty fifth birthday, SKY had rubbed there hands together at how well timed the fixture was on a marketing front. But to the fans of the Blades the only important thing in their mind was the new manager, David Weir, a man with a long successful career in his past, a man well respected throughout the footballing community, a man taking his first job in first team management, a man now in charge of leading my team to a successful campaign.
The football we played that day left the fans salivating, we were dominating, few of us could believe that this was real, the passing, the patient breakdown of our opponents, the chances (be them all squandered) we genuinely thought what we were seeing was the team that would be setting the pace in this division.
After the visitors had a man sent off we continued to apply pressure, and Kevin McDonald opened the scoring making it 1-0 to The Blades. After the break The visitors did hit back Showunmi getting a goal just before the hour mark. We didn't falter, Porter and Brandy both missing what many may describe as easy chances. But the game was won as Harry Maguire one of the jewels of the Blades first team popped up to grab the winner. As the final whistle went, the ground erupted in applause and jubilation. The fans, myself included, had seen how football should be played, and this season we will have plenty of reasons to cheer, or so we thought.

Harry Maguire celebrating his first and The Blades second

Like many of the fans, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone came knocking for Kevin McDonald. The man had been a maestro for us and our team looked to rely on him to create our chances and dictate the pace of the game, when Kenny Jackett and Wolves began their approach it seemed to wash away the euphoria of the Notts County game. And sure enough, when we travelled to Brentford there was no Kevin Mac on the team sheet. We went on to lose 3-1, we were discouraged, but he hadn't gone yet, and even if he did surely we could replace him. Loosing to Brentford away wasn't the end of the world, but four days later when McDonald signed for our division rivals the end of the world seemed in reach. 

McDonald at his new club
The Blades went on to draw 1-1 with Colchester and cracks began to form in the style of play we had adopted.  The first game of the season seemed a million miles away, but we still had faith, faith that Weir would adapt his tactics, make a signing, change things to play to our strengths. We were expecting an injection of passion and a new game plan, what we actually received were the same tactics leading to an away loss at Yorkshire rivals Bradford, a game where it looked as though we hadn't even turned up, and a home loss to the MK Dons, the tactics hadn't changed, but still we had faith that Mr Weir knew what he was doing.

The Prince Arrives
When it was revealed His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah had become part owner of Sheffield United a wave of optimism had swept over most of Sheffield. We had a man of incredible wealth now here to take us to the next level, the main issue with this was that the transfer window was shut. We went on to play against Rotherham, The Prince was there to see new man Jose Baxter open the scoring and put us into the lead.  But despite the goal, our tactics were leaving us open to counter attack, we were not creating scoring chances. We were keeping hold of the ball but not really doing anything productive with it. At half time the Blades fans (still in good cheer and being loud and proud) expected Mr Weir to change the shape and give us more attacking options but also give the midfield more chance to block a fast paced counter attack.  Possibly playing two upfront and playing with two deeper midfielders whilst two men out wide cut in and dictate the attacking tempo.  But instead we came out in the same shape and went on to suffer a 3-1 defeat. We would go on to lose our next three games, making it six defeats in a row, it was now clear Mr Weir was out of his depth and a change had to made.

Weir contemplates the repercussions of his approach
Also by now Weir had began to alienate those who were supporting him, speaking nonsense in post game interviews, claiming we had a great deal of chances when in reality we had one maybe two.  Passionless statements, avoiding hard questions from the press.  But most if all the main point of aggravation between Weir and the fans was his stubborn, some may even say arrogant refusal to change a system that was not working.  The final straw for many, including Radio Sheffield pundit Keith Edwards, having eleven men back defending set pieces, this meant if we got the ball we had no one available to play the ball to leaving no option for a quick counter attack.  Some noticed that players were not getting into attacking or useful positions, giving the impression they were scared to lose their place in the team if they deviated away from Mr Weirs master plan.  It was clear to many that Mr Weir had to leave, but some fans,had different opinions, this lead to many arguments. When the Crawly game came around many fans continued their arguments in the stands.  The game ended 1-1 The Blades having to come from a goal behind.
United had not won in the League since the opening game of the season and after losing 1-0 at home to Hartlepool in The Johnstone's Paint Trophy Mr Weir was given his marching orders, the experiment had failed and The Blades were yet again without a manager.
Chrissy Morgan's Red 'n' White Army

Like the back end of last season the reigns fell to Chris Morgan to be the caretaker manager of the first team.  Morgan is a man of passion and fight and no doubt the team needed this, also the players needed a leader, something Chris Morgan is no stranger to being.  But Chris in my opinion is not ready for management, whilst obviously this is only temporary, for the team to recover from this dreadful start and to start putting things together a new manager needs to be found soon.

Coventry away, and just like David Weirs first game in charge Chris Morgan's first game as temporary manager is being televised. The team started out in the same shape as under Weir, the tactics and focus all the same, so it came as no surprise that we were quickly a goal down, Leon Clarke grabbing the goal. The game had it's controversial moments, Mike Dean making questionable decisions, players remaining on the pitch when they should have been sent off. But no excuses could be found, in this shape and with this approach we conceded again.

Fight Back
Half time came and went, and shortly after the restart we went 3-0 down, Leon Clarke grabbing his second. Something then changed, substitutions were made, the shape and philosophy, we were no longer the team trying and failing to play pretty football, neither were we the team playing 'hoof ball' like in previous campaigns, we were a team playing the ball forward, not perfectly, but we were attacking.  Fighting for our lives and that spark and passion we had been missing was suddenly on show.  We grabbed a goal from a Lyle Taylor free kick, and that belief and perseverance kept going, Ryan Flynn who had not had a particularly impressive game was replaced by Ryan Hall. Hall placed a cross into the box which was converted by Taylor grabbing his second.  Suddenly we were only one goal down with ten minuets to go, and if not for two outstanding saves from Joe Murphy in the Coventry goal and the same man wasting a great deal of time when taking goal kicks one would think we could have grabbed a point.

Taylor celebrates his goal and demonstrates his
passion and willingness to battle for The Blades
We had lost again, and unfortunately we now sat at the bottom of the league, but we had proven, that when we change, in attitude, our tactics and determination, it was almost a defining moment, once Weir's legacy was put behind us we showed we can fight, we can take the game to teams and we can get out of this slump we are in.  But this fightback, this change in direction all now depends on one man,  a man who hasn't even been appointed yet, whilst he does not yet know it, the next Sheffield United manager has to be ready for the fight of his life.

Jonathan Gascoigne

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