Monsieur Salut writes: in a 46-match season plus cup ties, it is a distinct possibility that there will be gaps in the Who are You? series. This was nearly one of them. In a way, it is one of them. Dave Eyre*, who did the honours for the home game between our side and his earlier in the season, tried to find us someone but said we’d left it a little late. Other feelers led nowhere; sometimes it’s simple to find a fan, sometimes it’s as if you’re asking a stranger for an unsecured no-interest loan of £10,000 with no repayments necessary for five years.
So Dave graciously agreed to update us on his thoughts. I think the best way of approaching this is to let him have his say on the way he sees the Blades’ season going and then run a selection of the more timeless responses he gave us back in September (which you can see in full as they appeared then by clicking this sentence). Happy Christmas, Dave; I hope you have a magical 25th to compensate for a disappointing 26th …
Over to Dave:
We are going through a bad patch since the loss of Coutts for the rest of the season with a broken leg. My own thoughts are this has not been the disaster people think – the loss of both right wing backs (Baldock and Freeman) has been a much greater setback.
We took fellow promotion candidates Bristol City apart and then lost the other midfield stalwart (Fleck) to a sending off – probably deserved – though having watched Harry Kane’s tackle this weekend there seems to be a different law in the Premier League sometimes. Last minute winning goal to Bristol.
Moving Basham to right-wing back has been our undoing – we miss his forward runs from the right -hand three of the centre halves linking up with the right wing back. Also he is weak as a full back at championship level, just that little bit slower. But the loss of two of the best midfielders in the division at the same time has not helped.
We have also lost a couple of games badly – Millwall and Preston – and Wilder has made his feelings known about this. Not a man for mincing his words.
Thus we come into a Christmas period with three tough games: Villa away; a recently revived Sunderland at home and Bolton at home.
The fans still trust Wilder – we are still in a play-off position so it is still marching on for now and into January. I do believe he has his targets and the money – he has said publicly he wants to get the business done early in the transfer window. Which probably means it is done already.
I think we’ll be OK. In Wilder we trust.
Local joke. Our bitter rivals Sheffield Wednesday have not won a game since Coutts went off injured.
Salut! Sunderland: will you be at the game and what will be the score?
Dave: I’ll be there. 4-2 to us.
And here, a promised, some of the questions and answers from when we first encountered Dave in September.
Is it really true, as a survey suggested, that Blades fans are the most obsessed in the country?
Dave: I doubt it though they are very passionate. We got brilliant crowds when last in the Premier League averaging over 30,000. A lot of teams currently in the Premier League cannot get that into their stadiums. We had a pre-season game this year aganst Malaga in an obscure ground (Malaga’s training ground at Coin). Despite the cost at the height of the holiday season about 200 booked flights. And we have a great song that no one has ever stolen!
Chris Wilder had a long but unspectacular playing career. But do you see him as a top quality manager?
Always difficult to tell what any manager will do. Judging by his progress so far his chances must be good. He learnt his trade in the lower leagues and he has been on an upward curve ever since.
At Northampton where he had to cope with severe financial problems off the field, he succeeded in winning promotion. At Bramall Lane where the expectations are high he has won the hearts of the fans. 199 points in the last two years is good going and few other managers have ever achieved that, let alone with two different teams. A number of great managers have had unspectacular careers, some great players have tried and failed. The local saying is IWWT – In Wilder We Trust.
Who are the players who can cause problems in the Championship and where does your team cry out for strengthening?
Sharpe has had plenty of Championship experience and will always score goals nowadays. Clarke also, though he may not last the season as centre-forward. But they both lack a lot of pace and that will be our downfall. Hoping for a pacy young forward from the Permiership pool.
I watched a young Dele Alli run rings around us when he played for MK Dons whilst a Tottenham player. Someone like that would be fine.
Young star David Brooks coming on and causing problems up front and also in midfield will be a revelation to some. He lacks a little in the strength department but if you ever saw John “The Ghost” White play – well he looks the same. Won player of the tournament in Toulon for Young England earlier this year.
In midfield Paul Couts (out injured) and Samir Carruthers both look as if they can hold their own. Of the defenders Jack O’ Connell is outstanding; Richard Stearman has loads of experience at this level and has performed well so far. Our 3-5-2 puts a lot of emphasis on positional sense and the three defenders (Basham is the other) seem to do well. Both Basham and O’Connell get forward as part of their general game and not just at free kicks. And then there is Ched Evans.
Did you welcome Ched Evans back?
He was finally found innocent, so to me that is the end of it. There will be some name calling from the opposition when he comes on and this will set our fans off with retaliating chants, So long as it stays like that it’ll be OK. His appearances so far have shown he has lost none of his beefiness. He was just getting into his stride when jailed. No doubt in my mind that his loss cost us promotion that season. We were one of the highest scoring teams in western Europe when we faltered.
Your best and worst moments as a supporter?
One thing about supporting the Blades – they are consistent. They always let you down. Highs are promotions – Darlington from the Fourth; up from the Third last season; away at Leicester to go into the Premier League. Hammering Wednesday 3-1 at Hillsborough. Lows? Dozens. Failure of three managers who ought to have done better – Weir, Robson, Adkins. And of course losing on Boxing Day to Wednesday.
The players who have given you most – and least – pleasure in your colours?
I watched Jagielka as a youngster and saw him mature into an England player. Least pleasure – Don Givens. No competition. For those of your readers not familiar with the story, he missed a last minute penalty against Walsall which sent us into the Fourth Division as was.
Tell us a little of your club’s association with culture – not forgetting When Saturday Comes and The Full Monty
We seem to be very media friendly at Bramall Lane and we were of course the very first United before a team from Stretford also took the name. The TV series starring Cherie Lunghi, The Manageress, was filmed at Bramall Lane in the main, and Dave Bassett had a camera with him the whole year when we were promoted to the Premier League.
That was fun in parts. There is a great museum at Bramall Lane – and it seems I missed many of the glory days at the turn of the 19th century. I was there for When Saturday Comes (the penalty scene was filmed at a half-time). Sean Bean has a Blades tattoo which say “100% Blade”. Rumour is that he had a flesh coloured plaster over it when performing in Lady Chatterley. One of my favourite actors Robert Carlyle wore a Blades shirt in The Full Monty. There is a wonderful local artist called Joe Scarborough who does great paintings of the local scene. I can’t afford an original but I do have a couple of prints of United related material including a limited edition print done for a promotion.
I think United are a very working-class club. I was at a game versus Forest a few years after the miners’ strike and as the Forest came out there was a huge cry of “scabs”. My friend, naively I thought, suggested we had long memories going back to the 1984 miners’ strike. I pointed out that that was for 1926.
* Dave Eyre on himself: my first Blades games was way back in 1959 when I reach the age of 16. I had supported Chesterfield until then, but my parents judged I was old enough at 16 to travel to Sheffield on my own. Work took me all around the country for a few years from 1962 onwards and I rarely got to see them. Came back to Sheffield just as Tony Currie was at his height and I was at Old Trafford stood right behind George Best as he scored a goal for our first defeat that season on our return to the old First Diivision They showed it for about two years as part of the opening sequence for Match of the Day. Been there through the doldrum years. I became a mature student and then college lecturer and actually taught footballers as YTS apprentices though few actually made it, Carl Bradshaw and Wayne Quinn being the most notable. My hobby is folk music and I had a live show on Community Radio for seven years. Whilst broacasting this live show I tried to mention Sheffield United as much as I could even if the Sheffield Wednesday folkies stopped listening. Happily married to the same woman since 1972 – though she is barred from football at Bramall Lane since a 0-0 league cup draw with Aldershot. Both my kids would call themselves Blades though they have never been to a game. It’s in the blood you see!
Interview: Colin Randall