Sheffield United pay emotional Maddy Cusack tribute as Newcastle show touch of class

Blades midfielder and marketing executive passed away this week, aged 27

The greater Sheffield United family came together this evening to pay tribute to one of their own after the tragic passing of women's midfielder and marketing executive Maddy Cusack earlier this week.

The passing of Cusack, who passed the 100-game mark for the women's team last season and was a big part of their growth in recent years on and off the pitch, was announced on Thursday, to widespread tributes. It is rare in an industry like football for anyone to be universally well-liked but that was the case with Cusack, a popular member of the club’s excellent and tight-knit marketing team who was less amenable to opposition midfielders when it came to a 50/50 challenge for Jonathan Morgan’s side.

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Her face adorned the front of the matchday programme for this afternoon's clash with Newcastle United, with boss Paul Heckingbottom paying tribute in his notes. "I was deeply saddened when I was informed of the news," he wrote. "Maddy was a familiar face across all departments of the football club, and someone who served the women's team with distinction over several years as a player. I wish to extend our deepest condolences to Maddy's family and friends at this difficult time."

Cusack's mum and sister, Deborah and Olivia, were at Bramall Lane and walked arm-in-arm with women's captain Sophie Barker and club legend Tony Currie to lay a wreath on the centre-circle ahead of kick-off, before an emotional tribute video played on the big screen. That, and a pre-match graphic of her in United colours and the programme editorial and everything else, were produced by colleagues and friends of Cusack and as her mum and sister watched emotionally from the centre-circle, they will have hopefully felt some comfort from the outpouring of emotion and love at a time of grief that not many can imagine.

United's players, those involved in the game and those injured and suspended, joined in the warm applause on the touchline before the Blades' starting XI emerged from the tunnel for kick-off wearing shirts bearing her name and squad number eight. In a touch of class Newcastle fans joined in with the applause, both before the game and in the eighth minute of the game, while director Amanda Staveley was amongst those who left flowers at a site outside the south stand set up for tributes to Cusack.

Many in the stand shed tears, others held up home-made signs and banners expressing their sadness and paying their respects. It was an emotional moment; a reminder that, no matter what Bill Shankly may have said all those years ago, that some things are actually more important than football. Rest in peace, Mads.

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