Steel City derby: Pub landlords across Sheffield's football divide gear up for the big game

Pubs on both side of the city divide will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of bumper day of football trade.

Wednesday, 20th September 2017, 12:38 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 10:52 am

The Star spoke to two landlords from each nerve centre of Sheffield's footballing heartlands ahead of the much anticipated Steel City derby.

Malcolm Sissons of The Cricketers Arms on Bramall Lane and Kev Woods of the New Barrack Tavern, give their view on the game and just how important it is for the city.

Blade Malcolm and some of his regulars

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The Cricketers Arms on Bramall Lane is the epitome of all things Sheffield United.

The walls are covered with the reminder of glory days gone by - club legends and fearsome forward duo of Brian Deane and Tony Agana don the wall along with Tony Currie and managerial legend and Neil Warnock to name a few.

Built in 1859 and located slap bang across the road from the Westfield corner, this coming Sunday will see the historic pub full of fans as they cheer on their beloved Blades with a pint in hand. At least those who were unlucky enough not to get a ticket.

Kitted out his Blades t-shirt, Kop season ticket holder and landlord Malcolm Sissons is behind the bar pulling pints along with his staff.

Wednesdayite Kev Woods

Stepping from behind the beer taps before the home tie with Norwich City (which the Blades go on to lose 1-0), Malcolm praises United boss Chris Wilder and explains just what this means to himself and his loyal regulars.

"It means so much to everyone. It's the one you want to come on top. The excitement is building already and I hope this place is packed to rafters come Sunday.

"It's just good to have the banter back again along with the excellent start with United have made and Wednesday not really winning much at the start the banter was fantastic but it's getting down to crunch time now.

"We're confident and all the regulars who come in and Blades fans in general have a spring in their step and we're all very excited. Compare what's gone off in the last few seasons bar promotion - it's a different world.

Blade Malcolm and some of his regulars

"We've had it for a past few seasons off Wednesdayites saying we're a pub team in a pub league. We'll see who's a pub team come Sunday."

The game will be broadcast live on TV and Malcolm adds the Sheffield brand of football - both red and blue - will be a great advert for the city.

"In general terms, it's a fantastic advert for the city and it's back like it used to be before. A neutral might go 'Oh United and Wednesday are not top clubs in the top leagues'.

"But we've got five lads over from Holland at the Norwich game - the Sheffield brand of football is spreading - both United and Wednesday more and more. Sheffield itself I think is gaining a higher profile around the world."

Wednesdayite Kev Woods

But Malcolm lets slip he won't actually be working on Derby Day - he'll be in the Leppings Lane end with his fellow Blades.

"I've left the pub in good hands"! he said.

Malcolm predicts a 2-1 win for the Blades with boyhood Blade Billy Sharp on the score sheet.

Regulars at the New Barrack Tavern on Penistone Road are confident of Derby Day victory.

And so is landlord and big Wednesdayite Kev Woods - but says United are favourites going into the 128th Steel City Derby.

Some mind games perhaps? Who knows. But what everyone can agree is the anticipation and general banter between the two sets of fans has well and truly started.

The pub, will be slightly different to the Cricketers Arms come match day as it will be empty come 1.15pm. All the regulars will be in their seats cheering on what they hope will be Wednesday win.

The boozer, on one of the traditional fan walkways to Hillsborough stadium, is kitted in out with flags, scarves and pictures of Wednesday's glory days past.

They won't agree on footballing terms but one thing both landlords can agree on is this game is crucial for business. Without their locality to Bramall Lane and Hillsborough respectively, they'd struggle to keep going. Football is king.

Taking time to chat from pulling pints, Kev is not underestimating what this game means for people on both sides of the divide.

"It's absolutely huge. No doubt about it - both sets of supporters want to win especially with it being nearly six years since we last played each other - there's an added dimension to it.

"I think the general consensus is Wednesday fans are confident - we've been on top for the last five or so years. We're in same league now but we think we'll come out on top.

"But saying that, based on form and the league positions, I'd say United could go in as favourites."

The game is the only fixture on the footballing calendar where Kev doesn't allow away fans in for a pre and post match pint. Often, visiting fans from other clubs across the country are more than welcome to drink along with Wednesday supporters.

"The fixture has a history to go off a bit with trouble so the game will be home fans only," Kev said. The occasion will be a chance to show off Sheffield football to the rest of the country and Kev agrees with Malcolm it's about showcasing what football in this city is all about.

"I think this derby is up there with the best - blue v red, it's a proper traditional derby that both sides are desperate to win.

"I hope it goes off without any trouble and win or lose, we'll still get people through the door having some post match pints all the same!"

Kev predicts a 2-1 win for Wednesday with in-form Gary Hooper getting on the score sheet.

See Saturday's edition of The Star for your free 16-page Steel City Derby pull-out, featuring interviews with Owls and Blades players and managers, past and present