NEARLY 30,000 fans turned out to watch Sheffield United’s future stars make history last night.
After a season of watching their senior players lose match after match, loyal Blades were delighted with their youth team’s gutsy 2-2 draw against Manchester United in the first leg of the FA Youth Cup Final.
It was the first time in six years a team outside a small group of Premier League clubs had made it to the final, and the first time in United’s history they had made it past the early stages of the competition.
Bramall Lane was packed with 29,977 fans for the occasion - far more than at any senior match this season.
Supporter Charlie Bradder, 64, from Swallownest, stormed out after 20 minutes of the last first team match he watched, against QPR.
But before kick-off he was looking forward to seeing the young Blades in action: “I’m here to support our younguns. They are the future of the club.”
Despite a slow start, the fans gave their lads a warm reaction, even when they went 1-0 down to a controversial header after 16 minutes.
Shouts of “come on son!” pealed around the ground every time a red-and-white youngster broke forward, and the volume increased as the boys’ confidence grew. The near-capacity crowd erupted when Callum McFadzean’s powerful strike went in just before the interval.
The second half was a tense affair, with central defender Harry Maguire and keeper George Long repelling attack after attack. After the youngsters went 2-1 down, the crowd celebrated again when popular striker Jordan Slew drove in a brilliant strike from the edge of the box.
The fans were jubilant afterwards, looking forward to the second leg at Old Trafford on Monday.
Barry Bainbridge, 59, from Ecclesfield, said: “I hope the first team were watching tonight, because they would have learnt something. It was absolutely brilliant. I came to watch some decent football, after a terrible season, and I got it.
“They looked a bit overawed at first, but they fought like terriers to get back in the game.”
Steve Gribbon, 55, from Greenhill, a season ticket holder for 40 years, said: “These lads are the club’s future, but I just hope they don’t treat them as commodities and try to sell them off.”