Fans can fly the flag for Blades

New look at the Lane: One of the new suites.         Pictures: Sheffield United FC
New look at the Lane: One of the new suites. Pictures: Sheffield United FC
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THE tactics have been fine-tuned, limbs massaged and set pieces polished.

But as Danny Wilson and his players prepare for their first home match of the League One season, plenty has been going on behind the scenes to ensure Sheffield United provide the best possible match day experience.

New look at the Lane: The changing rooms.         Pictures: Sheffield United FC

New look at the Lane: The changing rooms. Pictures: Sheffield United FC

Results, of course, will ultimately dictate the mood inside Bramall Lane. And, as manager Danny Wilson and his assistant Frank Barlow will testify, football is far from an exact science. But, managing director Dave McCarthy explained last night, steps have been taken to try and ensure the odds are stacked in their favour.

The most important, he told The Star ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Brentford, is making sure supporters feel as if they have a stake in the club.

“We’ve listened to what has been brought up during forums with the fans and tried to implement as many of their ideas as possible,” McCarthy said. “By doing that we want to improve the experience for everyone that comes to our stadium.

“We’ve got a great facility here and that’s testament to the chairman but, if we’re being honest, fans had commented it had a bit of a corporate feel.

New look at the Lane: Managing director Dave McCarthy said 'we want to improve the experience for everyone who comes to the stadium'.         Pictures: Sheffield United FC

New look at the Lane: Managing director Dave McCarthy said 'we want to improve the experience for everyone who comes to the stadium'. Pictures: Sheffield United FC

“For instance, we didn’t realise what a big issue not being able to bring a flag into the ground was for a lot of people and, having been out to Malta and seen 15 of them flying at our matches out there, we realised just how great they look.

“The solution to the problem, funnily enough, was a solution that can get coated on them so they’re fireproof.

“They can add colour, vibrancy and even more atmosphere to the Lane.

“Of course we want visitors to come and enjoy themselves.

“That’s only right.

“But we also want to do everything in our power to make sure they go away with nothing but good memories.”

Some changes, however, will be far more subtle.

“The players, and I’ve got to say Danny has really encouraged this, won’t be entering the stadium through a side entrance anymore,” McCarthy continued.

“They’ll be walking through the car park and, if they can sign a few autographs on the way, then they can.

“They’re all smashing lads and we want to make sure they’re brought closer to our fans because the most important thing at any club is it’s people.”

“Previously, injured, suspended or players not involved in the match had their own room for pre-match and half-time hospitality,” added McCarthy. “Now they’ll go to the staff room where the rest of the people from across the club are.

“So, for example, Andy Taylor who is injured at the minute will be mingling with, let’s say, a part-time worker from the ticket office.

“We’re all in it together.”

A spirit exemplified by the fact two supporters helped refurbish the home dressing room during the close season with timber supplied by Lavers while pictures depicting great moments in United’s history now adorn the tunnel walls.

“It’s got a really professional feel about it now,” said McCarthy. “Two brothers helped out because they’re fans and so it was only right we gave them season tickets.

“If the players feel better about themselves then hopefully it will help them go out and perform.

“That’s the thinking behind it and they do seem really appreciative already.”

The boardroom - where a piece of Sheffield history now takes pride of place – and executive suites have also undergone a makeover.

“We’ve got a table in there from Thomas Ward, the old Sheffield firm, which was unearthed by John Garrett from Legends of the Lane,” said McCarthy.

“It must be worth a fortune but we got it for next to nothing when it came up at auction.

“I was actually bidding for it over the telephone during our friendly with Sheffield FC.

“It looks great and has given the boardroom a real traditional feel.

“We’ve also created a ‘Super Box’ for match hospitality that can hold 30 and is great to watch from.

“We’re hoping people will use it for celebrations and the like because, when full, it’s really affordable.

“Anyone can hire it because we’re trying to be an even bigger part of the community.”