Martin Smith: Football history made in Sheffield well before FC and Blades

Steel, Sean Bean, the Arctic Monkeys (aren’t they Wednesdayites?), the first United.

Monday, 19th August 2019, 23:12 pm
Updated Monday, 19th August 2019, 23:17 pm
Sheffield United fans celebrate at the final whistle as victory over Crystal Palace is confirmed

Match Of The Day 2 went all-out with their introductory montage to Sheffield United’s return to the Premier League on Sunday night’s show.

Neil Warnock, Tony Currie and Jessica Ennis, Brian Deane, Bramall Lane the oldest stadium in the world.

‘History, passion, pride’.

Goosebumps for Blades, sickbags for any watching Wednesdayites.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“We are Sheffield United and we are back where we belong…” snarled lifelong Blade and former United director Sean Bean over the footage in his grittiest growl.

But football in Sheffield in 1793?

According to that same intro, yes.

Even though the oldest football club, also mentioned, is Sheffield FC founded in 1857.

Football as a street game flourished for hundreds of years before ‘Sheffield Rules’ organised it and according to Wikipedia - which sites Percy M. Young’s 1962 book ‘Football In Sheffield’ as its source - the ‘first recorded game of football in the city was in 1793 between Sheffield and Norton (a Derbyshire village at the time, now a Sheffield suburb).

‘The game started as six a side but numbers swelled after both sides called for reinforcements. It continued for 3 days after which it descended into a general row.’

Sounds plausible, but not having yet taken delivery of Percy’s prose - £3.99 on ebay - the account has not been checked.

ACCURACY IS KEY

MOTD pundit Danny Murphy fears VAR is robbing fans of the immediate and ‘organic’ euphoria of goal celebrations that football has thrived on since 1793-ish.

He has a point.

But VAR wasn’t responsible for ruling out Manchester City’s late winner against Spurs.

That was down to the FA’s absurd new handball rule.

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT

Love him or otherwise it’s hard not to smile at the bluntness and economy of Geoffrey Boycott.

Once a Yorkshire and England batsman of legendary determination and dedication - he is alleged to have said in 1981:

"Given the choice between Raquel Welch and a hundred at Lord's, I'd take the hundred every time."

Glamorous film star Ms Welch’s response is not thought to have been recorded.

Boycott’s reaction to Ben Stokes’ brilliant century that set up another cricketing cliff-hanger in the Ashes draw at Lords was sheer class.

While those around him were wordily flourishing adjectives and epithets for Stokes, Boycott stuck to three that would thrill any English batsman more than a thousand from others:

“Well played, lad.”