Sheffield United: Former star backs decision to stage emotional under-21 clash at Bramall Lane

Keith Curle - Simon Cooper/PA Wire
Keith Curle - Simon Cooper/PA Wire
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Keith Curle has described the decision to dedicate next week’s under-21 international between England and Scotland at Bramall Lane to the memory of Laurie Cunningham as “a fitting tribute” to “an exceptional talent.”

The match takes place 36 years after Cunningham, who died in 1989, scored the winning goal when the two teams first met at the same stadium.

“Laurie was an exceptional talent,” Curle, who made over 50 appearances for Sheffield United, said. “He was given freedom at West Bromwich Albion and that was indicative of his personality.

“He played with natural flair and put a smile on people’s faces. He was the type of player people would pay the admission fee to watch him alone so it’s a fitting tribute.”

The contest, on August 13, also marks the 20th anniversary of Kick It Out; football’s equality and inclusion campaign. Insisting considerable progress has been made towards tackling discrimination since its inception, Curle added: “What some people perceived as banter, making comments that they thought were funny, the type of comments people laughed at in the changing room, is now unacceptable behaviour.

“I feel there has been a massive step forward in terms of changing people’s attitudes. Anyone who walks into football can now be accepted regardless of their race, skin colour or religion.”

Curle, a contender for the managerial vacancy at United before David Weir’s appointment in June, also claimed Bramall Lane is the perfect venue to stage such an emotive fixture.

“The supporters there are absolutely fantastic,” he said. “If you went 1-0 up they would be like an extra player.

“To be a crowd favourite, you need to be a special type of person to perform well in that atmosphere.”

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