LES PAYNE: Blades may be following well-worn path

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IT is still by no means certain but should Sheffield United be relegated to football’s third tier, it might not come as too much of a surprise.

It would be following a similar path along which two other local clubs have stumbled.

Both Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley were unable to stop themselves sliding to another relegation not long after dropping out of the Premier League. Now, United look to be going the same way in a similarly short time. Barnsley’s decline following relegation in 1998 after their solitary season in the Premier League saw them relegated into League One in 2002 and into financial meltdown the same year because they went into administration.

Wednesday’s nine year stay in the top flight ended in 2000 whereupon they dropped through The Championship in 2003 (they did get back up a couple of years later).

United departed the Premier in 2007 and, four years on, are facing relegation again although there is a difference in that, in the meantime, they nearly did get back up again. Others may chart similar tales by tomorrow’s Bramall Lane visitors Leeds (relegated from the Premier in 2004 and down into League One in 2007), and Bradford City (relegated PL in 2001 and in Lge One in 2004 with another drop into Lge Two in 2007). There are other examples of course, not least Wednesday’s opponents tomorrow, Southampton, who lost their Premier place in 2005 and were in League One in 2009. Charlton Athletic’s demise was even quicker - 2007 in PL and 2009 in League One. It is the seriously quick decline that is a common thread and, for all supporters, it happens whilst the memories of top flight football are still fresh.

They will be showing some pretty special sporting footage in Sheffield next week. It is of particular interest to cricket enthusiasts and, notably, followers of Yorkshire. It is extensive archive film capturing the “Story of Yorkshire CCC”, from its foundation in 1863.

There’s even footage of Lord Hawke. It will be on show at Wednesday’s meeting of Sheffield Cricket Lovers Society at Abbeydale Park and secretary David Drabble tells me the members are looking forward to seeing it.

“It has been put together by the people at the MCC archive department and we are grateful to the MCC for making this film available to us,” said David.

Of course, whilst Yorkshire cricket has become ever-more Leeds centric in recent times, it is appropriate that this film should be shown for the first time in the city of the club’s cricketing birthplace.

Referees get their fair share of negative press so it’s good to be able to redress the balance a touch. A referees course for females, organised by the Sheffield & Hallamshire FA, has been launched and they are delighted with the response. Some 17 females enrolled on the course which began in Barnsley last Monday. If all come through then it will increase by a whopping 70 per cent the number of female refs within the local FA’s region.

Gemma Gale, S&H Development Officer said: “The course is intended to draw more females into refereeing by providing an environment which isn’t male dominated.

“Gender should not be the main factor determining the quality of a referee, players want to be refereed by competent, fair and quality referees and whether they are female of male shouldn’t be an issue.” In view of this success, a further four courses are planned.