SHEFFIELD’S civic leaders have told of their disappointment after the Blades’ play off final heartbreak - but have backed the club to be promoted next season, write Richard Marsden and Molly Lynch.
SLIDESHOW: Press the play button to watch our video slideshow report.
Meanwhile, fans leaving Wembley Stadium after the decisive penalty shoot-out, which Huddersfield won 8-7 after United goalkeeper Steve Simonsen missed, described it as a ‘sickening way to lose’ but teammates have rallied around him praising his performance during the game.
It was Sheffield United’s fourth play off final defeat in recent years.
Players consoled Simonsen, who had earlier made a string of good saves.
Midfielder Nick Montgomery said: “We all feel for Simmo. It’s not his fault. He was excellent during the game.”
Defender Neill Collins added: “It’s a horrible way to lose but we have a lot to be proud of.”
Julie Dore, Sheffield Council leader, who travelled to Wembley to watch the match with her United-supporting family despite being a Wednesday fan herself, told The Star she was ‘gutted’ after Danny Wilson’s side lost on sudden-death penalties.
She said: “It would have been great if United could have followed Wednesday into The Championship but there is next season and I hope the club can secure promotion then.”
Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council’s most senior Blades-supporting member, and a season ticket holder at Bramall Lane, added: It’s just very disappointing. I think we have had a fantastic season and I think Danny Wilson has done a fantastic job as manager. The fans have been great and so have the players.
“This is the fourth play off final out of four in recent years where we have come away the losing side without scoring a goal - it’s just upsetting.”
But he added: “It’s been a fantastic year vying for promotion against Wednesday. We are in a good position for next season. We ought to keep the squad and strengthen it - and hopefully win promotion next time.”
Promotion for Wednesday alone is set to bring millions of pounds for Sheffield’s economy and boost the city’s profile - and it was hoped that both clubs would go up securing double the benefits.
At Wembley, a hush descended during the penalty shoot out for each spot kick followed by a roar from each set of fans when a player scored. Some United supporters could not bear to look whilst the penalties were taken.
After Simonsen’s miss, one fan leaving the ground said: “It was a sickening way to lose”.
Another added: “The better team won on the day.”
Robert Peart, aged 34, from Doncaster, said: “I was expecting it. I’m never coming to a play off final again - it’s too much.”
Scott Hennell, 15, who was at the game with his parents, added: “I was absolutely speechless by the result. I couldn’t believe it. When Huddersfield missed the first penalty, I though we would win.”
Gary Hemingway, 40, who grew up in Sheffield but is currently living in Germany, said: “I expected it to be honest. The team didn’t turn up on the day.”
Supporters did not mention the absence of jailed striker Ched Evans when comiserating with each other about the defeat.
The disappointment followed a carnival atmosphere as fans set out in the early morning on coaches from Bramall Lane and outlying areas such as the Cross Keys pub, at Handsworth, where 400 people boarded nine coaches.
Some fans had been in wigs and fancy dress, while others were wearing especially-made t-shirts with slogans such as ‘Keep Calm, It’s Sheffield United’.
But frustration for Blades fans began before they even reached Wembley when those on coaches were delayed by several hours due to a crash on the M1 motorway at Luton and only just arriving in time for kick-off.
The collision was between a car and a coach but no Blades fans were involved.
* See Monday’s Star for full match report and fan’s reactions.