Who Are These Jobbers?
On a hazy spring afternoon in 2017, I walked along the sun-drenched A621 outside Sheffield United’s famous Bramall Lane home. It was a scene of beaming smiles bathed in red and white shirts. The Blades were going up and they were going to do it by collecting 100 points along the way.
The Kop was a sea of happy faces and Carlsberg as Chris Wilder’s men duly delivered their record-breaking season from League One. At the time, Sunderland were enduring phase one of the demotion misery that led to us this very moment. I hated everything about Sunderland - there are a lot of elements I still do - and that day really opened my eyes to what football was meant to be about.
And, you know what? It made me sick. It made me sick that Sheffield United had managed to get it right after years of failure. They had a plan in place that would take them, albeit unexpectedly, back to the bright lights of the Premier League. They had a united fanbase, a likeable squad and were essentially everything that Sunderland were not.
Two years on and it’s exactly the same. While Sunderland fans spent Saturday booing their own players and aiming “you’re getting sacked in the morning” at their own manager, the Blades were putting one of the Premier League’s stalwarts to the sword in their own backyard.
Yes, okay, Sheffield United do have an owner that openly said he would do business with the Bin Laden family. Yes, they did spend six years in League One before they managed to get it right. Yes, they did employ Ched Evans and, yes, Chris Wilder does look like an annoyed bus driver.
Despite this, every single Sunderland supporter would give their right arm to go on the journey the Blades are currently on.
What’s The Ground Like?
Bramall Lane has been around for so long, the first documented sign of life in Sheffield was when a herd of woolly mammoths upset a sabre tooth tiger XI in a charity match here in 15 million BC. Among the many sights this famous old cricket ground has witnessed is an evangelist meeting held by the legend that is Billy Graham in 1985.
While both leg seamers, mammoths and religious nuts rarely grace the hallowed turf much nowadays, it has been the venue of the Blades’ revival. The imposing Kop Stand still manages to help bellow out a hearty pre-match rendition of ‘Greasy Chip Butty’ while the concrete outer facade has yer Da shedding a tear about “proper football”.
Sunderland fans in the lower section of the Redbrik Estate Agency Stand where you’ll be able to give the Lads a good old booing after each kick.
How Do I Get There?
What better way to spend a rainy afternoon than driving to beautiful South Yorkshire? For you legends hitting the asphalt highways, take the A1(M) before joining the M1 at Leeds. Follow this until junction 33 where you exit for the Sheffield Parkway heading into the city centre. Take the A61 past the railway station before taking a left onto Shoreham Street and the stadium is on your right.
There is plenty of street parking available around Bramall Lane or you can find a car park in the city. If you get lost, plop S2 4SU into your sat nav.
For you train fans, Sheffield railway station is around a 20-minute walk from Bramall Lane with plenty of bars and food outlets en route.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
There is a lot to be said about a good train station pub. When you want to take a moment before your train arrives, you want to do it in the comfort of a good pub. The Sheffield Tap duly obliges with a huge selection of ales, continental lager and some damn fine crisps, and it’s just a 20-minute walk from the stadium.
However, if you’re looking for something a little more rustic then swing by the away fan favourites of The Howard and The Globe, both on Howard Street, or wander along to Rutland Arms on Brown Street. For the connoisseurs among you, Sheffield is a mecca of delicious beer and none more so than Triple Point Brewing which has a taproom and burger joint on Shoreham Street.
If you have a little more time on your hands, head to Devonshire Street and take your pick from excellent establishments such as Bungalows & Bears, Gatsby and The Common Room.
From personal experience, it is best to avoid any of the pubs on London Road around Bramall Lane, unless you want to meet acquaintance of some of the more finer gentlemen among Sheffield United’s support.
Is There Anything Worth Doing Round Here?
Hey, do you want to feel really, really old? Visit any bar or club after the match in Sheffield and see the next generation of debt-saddled students begin their university adventure with eyes full of hopes and dreams. The majority of these young’uns will have been born in 2002 and have zero recollection of who “Kevin Phillips” is.
The best course of action will be heading back to the north east immediately after full-time to bemoan just bloody old you are.