James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: A kick in the teeth for fans

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The People’s Game? Don’t make me laugh.

Deciding that Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final tie between Sheffield United and Charlton Athletic will kick-off at noon proves, beyond all reasonable doubt, that those of you who spend their hard earned cash actually attending matches rather than watching them from the comfort of a living room chair are completely disregarded by the powers-that-be.

It took me all of two minutes to discover that the first available train from London St Pancras arrives in Sheffield seven minutes after this weekend’s contest is scheduled to start. So those responsible for sanctioning this ridiculous idea are either incapable of reading a timetable or simply don’t care about the inconvenience it will cause.

Folk travelling from the capital could, of course, set-off tomorrow night and spend 10 hours or so enjoying the delights of Wakefield station before hopping aboard a connecting service. But I’ve a sneaking suspicion that probably doesn’t appeal.

So instead, Charlton’s near 5,000 strong following will be forced to make the 350 mile round trip either by coach or car having set-off at some ungodly hour earlier that morning.

Paying probably quadruple the cost of a monthly BT Sport subscription for the privilege.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a number of important factors can influence when games are played.

And important ones at that, including safety concerns. (Though, given the fact that there were 1754 fatalities on our roads during 2012, surely we want to encourage the use of public transport?)

The threat of trouble clearly can not have been a factor.

Home Office Statistics for the 2012/13 campaign reveal that Charlton, who with 14 arrests seemingly boast the second best behaved set of supporters in the Championship, were also the only club not to have anyone nicked for violent disorder. Twenty-nine United fans were arrested during the same period with 13 of those due to alcohol related offences rather than confronting rival fans.

So, the only thing I can conclude is that someone, and I’m not sure who, doesn’t give a fig about the paying public.

Anyway, enjoy the game.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1