Sheffield United are about to experience life in the third tier of English football for the first time in over two decades after being relegated from the
Championship last seasion. The Star’s James Shield met Bramall Lane legends Len Badger, Ted Hemsley and Tony Currie to discuss events past, present and future in S2 ahead of tomorrow’s League One opener at Oldham Athletic
James Shield: What are your thoughts about the changes at Bramall Lane this summer?
Len Badger: I’m excited about them. We all know that results are the most important thing in this business. That will never change. But entertainment is still important. Football is also about a visual effect and the excitement it can bring. When all is said and done, it’s still a game and people should be able to enjoy it. The way our new manager Danny (Wilson) likes to play, I think we’ve already seen during pre-season that he’s got the same idea.
Ted Hemsley: All three of us sat around this table now share the same principles about how the game should be played. The new regime seem to have the same ones too. It’s a big job, it’s got to be said, in both senses of the word. A few years ago we had a very good squad. Now, with all due respect to the lads here, in terms of that depth it’s not as good. So they need to be managed well and I know they will be.
Tony Currie: The one thing you know with Danny, the thing you are always going to get regardless of anything else, is a commitment to playing good football. Playing the right way. And that’s why I’m glad he’s here. I think everyone connected with Sheffield United wants that.
JS: So you all endorse Danny’s appointment. But what are the potential pitfalls he might face?
TH: There’s no point in beating about the bush. We know it and he knows it. I’m appealing, urging even, all our supporters to get behind him and the team this season. That’s vitally important because there’s nothing worse, speaking as an ex-player, when your own crowd is getting on your back.
Away from home, I don’t think it’s an issue because those folk are always 100 per cent behind you. But we want the players to be confident in what they are doing. Everyone knows Danny worked at Sheffield Wednesday in the past. But that’s where it is. In the past. It’s about Sheffield United and we all need to stick together.
TC: Danny is a good guy. He’s a decent man and he’s straightforward in how he deals with people. There won’t be anyone more determined or committed to doing well here than him.
LB: They are all good people. I’m delighted that he’s also brought Frank Barlow in as his assistant and Billy Dearden as his chief scout. They are knowledgeable and great guys to boot. They’ll all treat the players with respect. They’ll come down hard if something is wrong but they’ll treat them with respect.
JS: Why is that so important?
LB: It’s vitally important because you want a happy dressing room. And, believe it or not, it also helps your confidence.
TH: I completely agree with what Len has said. When I was playing I had my run-ins with a certain manager. We didn’t fall out but we had our run-ins. He told me that it wasn’t an issue because he was playing me. But, in the back of my mind, it did make we wonder why.
TC: Man-management is crucial. It always has been. Different people respond in different ways to different scenarios.
TH: All of us speak to lots of different people in the game. And the words everyone uses in relation to Danny are ‘honest, decent and straight-forward..
LB: Frank and Billy are like that too.
JS: Tell me about Frank.
LB: Well, when he was a player there was definitely a different side to him. A top guy but he could certainly look after himself. I always used to say that I wasn’t bothered about the lads who used to shout, bawl and point their fingers. You knew what was coming. It was the quiet ones you had to watch.
TH: Frank is a really top-class bloke who comes across as very laid-back. But he’s deadly serious about his football. He gets just as wound up about it as anyone else.
JS: Why were United relegated last season?
TH: I’m not going to say it was all down to bad luck. It wasn’t.
But there’s no doubt in my mind that, if Chris Morgan had been available and Darius Henderson too then we’d have stayed up.
There were a host a different factors but those two being absent definitely played a part.
JS: Chris, of course, has now been appointed to the coaching staff. Do you think that’s a smart move?
TH: I do. He’s someone who leads by example and who is respected in the dressing room.
LB: The best teams are always the noisy teams. We’ve all spoken about how important it is to play good football but you need that bit of bite too. Chris’s presence on the touchline will ensure the lads out there show that.
TH: But we also need him back playing as quickly as possible. He’s a leader out there and you can’t have enough of those.
JS: You’ve talked a lot about the importance of playing good football. But can you do that in League One?
TC: Of course you can. Why wouldn’t you be able to do it? Okay, it’s not the Premier League but the principles of the game don’t change. They’re still exactly the same, aren’t they?
LB: I’m not having a dig at anybody. Far from it. But for the past few years I do think that we’ve always been a little bit too predictable in terms of how we would approach a game. There have been reasons for that but, nevertheless, that’s been the case.
You can play football in any division. But you need to be able to have some bite as well.
TH: What you need to do is win the battle first and then win the war. You can play football.
There’s no reason why you can’t. Brighton showed that last year. Southampton too. So we all know it can be done but you’ve got to be able to mix it.
JS: But how easy will it be to do that? Isn’t there a danger that, because United will be seen as a big scalp, they could find themselves being dragged into wars of attrition?
LB: It won’t be easy because there are going to be times, especially away from home, that the crowd is going to be right on top of our lads and it could come as a bit of a shock because a lot of them haven’t played at this level before.
But at home I’d love to see us really take it to the opposition. Be pragmatic, but take it to them at the same time.
TH: The key thing is always not to give anything away if you can possibly help it. Nothing. The fans have also got a big part to play at Bramall Lane.
The last thing we want is teams coming here and thinking ‘Isn’t this brilliant’. We want this to be an intimidating place that teams hate coming to. The fans can play a part in that, as I’ve already said.
TC: It’s always important to have respect for your opponents.
But you’ve got to retain confidence in your own ability too. Have a bit of an attitude if you like. But only in the right way. Attitude can be a good thing.
TH: You’re spot on. And, like you say, there’s no point in swanning around with one if you’re getting beat. You’ve got to earn that right first.
JS: How much did relegation hurt you all?
TH: My missus said to me that she’s never seen me as upset about anything to do with football and she was right. But we’ve got to pick ourselves up and not wallow in it now. Get on with things. That’s the attitude we need to have.
LB: Quite right. But it hurt me like you wouldn’t believe. I played for United. I grew up supporting United. My dad supported United and so did my mum. She worked here when I was playing too. When I was a youngster I used to sweep the terraces. And, do you know what? I used to love it because it was Bramall Lane.
I used to polish boots until they couldn’t shine anymore because they were United boots. I absolutely love this place.
TH: Yes, but you nearly burnt it down!
LB: He’s right. I was a youngster here and I was asked to make sure the dressing room was nice and warm for the first team when they came in the next day.
So I filled the heater up with coal. Absolutely piled it high and left it like that overnight. The only thing I forgot was to shut the door on the boiler. When I came in the next morning the whole place was full of smoke and in a bit of a state.
TH: And in a wooden stand!
JS: Are you confident about United’s prospects for the new season?
LB: This is a great club, I don’t care what division it’s in. But we’ve got to accept where we are now, that we are in League One, and deal with it. Try to get out of the division as quickly as we possibly can. It’s not going to be easy and there will be times when, going to tiny grounds where the crowd is right on top of you, could be a bit of a culture shock.
But I know we’ve got players here with the character to deal with that. They’re a good bunch and I’m backing them.
TC: I agree with Len. What he says is right. Everyone knows what this club means to me and I’m desperate for us to do well.
TH: I’ve gone on record to say that I think we’re a good bet. Especially at some of the prices that I’ve seen being offered. We’ve got some really good people here and I think the ones that are still with us from last season will be desperate to get out there and prove a point. That’s the way I’d be thinking and I’m sure they will be too.
Len Badger, Ted Hemsley, Tony Currie and James Shield met in the Copthorne Hotel, Bramall Lane.
OLDHAM (possible): Cisak, Lee, Mvoto, Diamond, Black, Winchester, Furman, Lund, Taylor, Smith, Reid (4-4-2).
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Jean-Francois, Flynn, Montgomery, Williamson, Quinn, Cresswell, Slew (4-4-2).
Darren Drysdale: Based in Lincolnshire, the 40-year-old combines footballing duties with his day job as a sergeant in the RAF. A former Select Group and FIFA assistant, Drysdale officiated at the last FA Cup Final to take place under Wembley’s famous twin towers. Attracted attention when Dean Windass received a five-match ban for swearing at him in the car-park following a match between Bradford and Brentford in 2007. Sent off Oldham’s Felipe Morais during April 1-1 draw with Walsall at Boundary Park.
Tale Of The Tape
Oldham, who finished 17th in League One last term, ended the campaign in disappointing fashion, winning only once in their final six outings. United, meanwhile, travel to Boundary Park looking to make a positive start to life in the third tier after being relegated last season.