'A surreal moment of celebration, tinged with sadness' - Sheffield United announcer on fans' long-awaited return to Bramall Lane
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The result – a 1-0 defeat to Birmingham City – may have disappointed, but according to the club’s stadium announcer Gary Sinclair the atmosphere inside the ground certainly didn’t.
Gary’s role meant he was lucky enough to have been at the stadium for matches while most fans remained banned throughout the Covid pandemic but he told how hearing it rocking again to the noise of some 30,000 supporters was a surreal but special moment.
“It was amazing to see everyone talking, smiling and hugging one another again after all this time,” he said.
“The atmosphere was great and the reception for the team was so loud I could hardly hear myself speak.
“It’s not the result we we wanted but it wasn’t for lack of trying or lack of support.
“The build-up was a bit subdued at first because I think people had forgotten what to do. They were just looking round and taking in what it was like to be part of such a big crowd again. It was pretty surreal having not seen anything like that for months and months and months.
"There were people there who would have lost loved ones and wished they were there with them sharing the moment. We mentioned Len Badger again, bless him. It’s people like him you feel should have been part of the occasion.
"It was a moment of celebration at getting back to a semblance of normality but also a moment of reflection.
“For me, having not missed a match, it felt so different having got used to sitting in silence looking at empty stands.
“It was special to be back under one roof and able to shout, enjoy ourselves and let off a bit of steam after 17 months of pent-up frustration at what we’ve missed.
“I think having the fans back will be a huge factor for us this season. Once the team’s settled and the manager has them playing how he wants the support, which is second to none, will make a huge difference.”