James Shield’s Sheffield United Column

Date:13th April 2013.'Sheffield United v Swindon Town. Pictured Sheffield United's new manager Chris Morgan.
Date:13th April 2013.'Sheffield United v Swindon Town. Pictured Sheffield United's new manager Chris Morgan.
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“I don’t know much about history and I wouldn’t give a nickel for all the history in the world. We want to live in the present and the only history that’s worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”

I’m not sure whether Henry Ford, the great American industrialist, was a footy fan. But his words will definitely strike a chord within the Sheffield United ranks.

Chris Morgan’s side, who entertain Yeovil Town in the opening installment of their League One play-off semi-final this evening, are attempting to become the club’s first representatives to plot a course through the end of the season knockouts.

But, it quickly became apparent during the manager’s media briefing on Wednesday, that talk of past failures is not being tolerated behind the scenes at Bramall Lane.

“It’s easy to start saying we haven’t done this and we haven’t done that,” Morgan told one inquisitor particularly keen to push his morose line. “I’m more bothered about what we do now.”

Nevertheless, what can we learn from previous play-off campaigns?

United, who finished behind four other teams in the final table, will be encouraged to know that, since the division was re-branded in 2005, three teams from South Yorkshire have been promoted via this route and two of those came fifth.

Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, the competition’s third placed team is statistically the most likely to progress with 4th and 5th positions providing two winners apiece.

First-leg contests during the same period are notoriously tight, producing an average of only 1.81 goals compared to exactly three in the returns.

Indeed, on only one occasion has a team or teams scored more than two goals in the opening encounter of a semi-final. In the decisive match, that figure rises to four.

With two points and a place separating United and Yeovil in the rankings - and both sides gaining a win apiece from their meetings last term - history suggests the next 180 or so minutes of football will be tense and tortuous.

As Neill Collins predicted recently, “one moment of magic or a mistake,” is likely to decide the outcome of this fascinating tie.

Then again, as Henry would have said, what’s happened before doesn’t really count for much.

*Twitter: JamesShield1