Kevin Gage's Sheffield United column: If Manchester City, Liverpool or Barcelona had scored that goal we'd never hear the last of it!
In these days of the glamorous footballing utopia that is the Premier League it’s sometimes nice to reflect on past times and how things were ‘back-in-the day.’
On Saturday, we played the club from the northern town of Burnley. The word ‘glamour’ doesn’t immediately spring to mind when the town or football club of Burnley is mentioned.
Actually, nor does Sheffield to be honest, but our city is getting there, slowly.
So the fixture list gave us Sheffield United versus Burnley in November. Maybe a rather mundane, run-of-the-mill, potentially unexciting football fixture, between two teams, two managers and two clubs who in their own certain ways epitomise everything that the Premier League left behind many years ago.
Pre-game, when anticipating the match, it all felt a bit ‘old-school’ with two ‘proper’ clubs, managers and teams who played ‘proper’ football!
We also had two English managers who seem to have similar attributes and demand similar things of their players.
We don’t need to go too overboard on the qualities both managers look for, as we know what Chris Wilder is all about and a minute of listening to Sean Dyche tells you everything you need to know about him and his beliefs.
We also had two squads and teams of predominantly British Isles born players, and we knew that Burnley were a more direct and physical than the majority of Premier League sides. In fact, they lead the way in both those categories I’d suggest.
It just didn’t FEEL like a Premier League game did it? It was even played on the correct footballing day of the week and at the correct kick-off time just like games used to be, and to make us feel even more typically British it was cold, damp, miserable weather as well. We just needed a muddy pitch and we’d have been transported back 30 years!
In short the stage was set for potentially long, hard, difficult afternoon and I was prepared for a tough, workmanlike, no-frills performance, against an uncompromising rough and ready team who would battle us all the way, and a game I thought we’d need to grind out to get a result.
Boy, was I wrong!!!!
We were simply, utterly and completely MAGNIFICENT.
The first half at times produced some of the best football I’ve ever seen us play and this was against yet another established Premiership side on another ‘off’ day apparently!
I don’t actually buy into Burnley being ‘under par’ as our three goals were so ruthlessly efficient and effective, no team in this league would have stopped them.
I thought the first goal was quite outstanding at the time, with Enda Stevens’ superb through ball, David McGoldrick’s great cross and Lys Mousset’s brilliant flick only bettered by the cool, calm, confidence of John Lundstram’s finish.
We were 1-0 up, and Burnley were doing very little except for clubbing the ball forward. But having previously only scored three times in five home games, we needed another goal really to reflect the dominance and to make us all sit a bit more comfortable in our seats. We got our wish….and some!
So after that excellent opening goal, it was beyond belief that we scored an even better second! A flurry of quick accurate passing on the left and we cut Burnley to shreds again. I actually stood up in anticipation as Stevens made his way down the left because I could see that the early cross was on as The Moose sprinted forward ahead of his marker.
Enda duly dispatched a perfectly timed, perfectly delivered cross into the box, and even though our centre-forward got a faint touch, John Lundstram had sprinted 50 yards to get on the end of it and score his second.
Wonderful, and if Man City, Liverpool or Barcelona had scored that goal, everyone would be talking about it non-stop.
It was as good a goal as you will see all season with the seven quick pass-and-move build up, the measured cross and the end finish. Wonderful stuff indeed.
There was still time for John Fleck to get in on the act and as he struck his left-footer low into the far corner, my mind jumped back to the Liverpool game when he declined a similar shooting chance, cut inside and the chance was gone.
I wrote last week that players will get better and learn in this division. Flecky gets better every week, and is learning fast!
It says a great deal about our team shape and set up when you see on the TV highlights later on, that even though Burnley tried to take the game to us in the second half, we still had all the best chances to win more comfortably!
Billy Sharp missed, for him, a sitter. McGoldrick needed to direct a header to the far post rather than the near one as the keeper scrambled across to save it.
That man Lundstram had a dipping volley saved, a speculative shot wide and will probably never come closer to an unlikely hat-trick when he guided yet another shot wide in the last few minutes!
I know how he must have felt as I also shot two yards wide when nearly clean though at Luton away many years ago after getting two first half goals in a 6-3 Blades win! I never came closer to a hat-trick and doubt he will either!
So it’s another home win, another clean sheet, another superb performance and most importantly, another three points.
Chris has said he doesn’t look at the table, but guess what guys…he’s telling fibs! Of course he does!
I certainly do, and I’m gonna keep looking at it all week to be honest. Because we’re sixth for God’s sake! SIXTH !!!
Does it get much better than this? Will it? Who knows what this team can achieve.
Oh, by the way….up next at BDTBL, it’s Man Utd, and to stay in the top six, we need to beat these mid-table teams don’t we? !!!