Simon Moore has made memories and friends for life at Sheffield United after remarkable five years as a Blade
When he signed for Sheffield United, with the club floundering at the wrong end of League One, Simon Moore remembers saying in one of his media interviews that he was determined to help the club back to where he felt it belonged.
“Did I think we’d be in the Premier League and fighting for a place in Europe three years later? No, probably not!” Moore smiled. “If someone told me that would happen, I don’t think I would have believed them.
“But it did. I couldn’t imagine it going like it has for the last five years.
“Taking last season out of it, which was very disappointing, it’s been a remarkable few years. I’m sad to be leaving, of course, because the people and the memories have been so good. It would be difficult to replicate that anywhere else.
“But at the same time, I’m happy that it went the way it has, because I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Speaking to Moore, hearing him talk through his time at Bramall Lane after last week’s announcement that he will be released when his contract expires at the end of this month, brings to mind the quote about not being sad it’s over, but smiling because it happened.
The Blades were third-bottom of League One when he signed from Cardiff in 2016, and fell bottom after defeat on his debut at Millwall. Since then, United have won the League One title with 100 points in that same season, threatened promotion to the Premier League in their first season back, reached the top-flight and then launched an incredible bid for a place in Europe before being derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Even last season’s relegation showed that this United side do not do things by halves, and a new era now beckons for the club with Slavisa Jokanović preparing to take official charge this summer and another of Wilder’s centurions seeking pastures new.
“I’ve known for a couple of weeks,” admitted Moore, who will leave this summer along with Phil Jagielka, Jack Rodwell and John Lundstram.
“Hecky [interim boss Paul Heckingbottom] told me in person, at a time when he was unclear about his own future. I have massive respect for him for that.
“I think he did brilliantly since he took charge, after being put in a very difficult position. I think he handled it really well and wherever he goes in the future, he’ll be successful. Because he has all the right credentials to be a really top manager.
“I knew my time at the club was probably coming to an end, though. I’m 31 now and I need to be playing regular football. The back-up role is one that I just fell in to.
“Really, I’ve been quite unlucky with the fellow goalkeepers wherever I’ve been. When I first went to Brentford there was Wojciech Szczęsny, who’s now at Juventus, and at Cardiff I had David Marshall in front of me, who was goalkeeper of the year in the Premier League at the time.
“Then I came here and Dean Henderson came in! And then Rammers was ahead of me. I’ve not had a lot of luck with top goalkeepers in front of me. It’s difficult, as a goalkeeper, to find that consistency without playing consistent games but when I have played consistently for United, I think I did well.
“I never had any complaints. I’d have been deluded if I went and knocked on the gaffer’s door to ask why I wasn’t playing in front of Hendo. When he first came in, I gave him a lift to the hotel and told him to give me a shout if he needed anything.
“He was my rival in some ways but that’s just who I am. We all wanted the same thing. It’s not like I wanted him to throw one in; I needed him to keep clean sheets so we could get to the Premier League, because it’d be life-changing for us all.
“It’s been the same with Jamal Blackman and Rammers. That’s the life of a goalkeeper. Everyone wants to play. I’d have loved to play every game, be player of the season, but sometimes life doesn’t work like that.
“There’s no point being bitter and twisted about it. You have to make the best out of every situation.”
Moore is effusive in his praise for Jagielka, describing the former England man as “a great, great man” who was “selfless” in playing a supportive role to his teammates and above all, a really decent bloke. The same can be said of Moore himself, although he would be far too modest to agree.
“I’ve had a lot of messages on Instagram and my dad says there were loads on Twitter, from Blades fans wishing me well,” the goalkeeper said.
“I’m amazed really at how many I’ve received. It’s really touching. I’ve just done my best for the club, from the first day to the last. I’ve worked hard and been myself. I’ll always be myself.
“I just consider myself lucky to have been a small part of the success that the club has had over the last five years. It’s something that will probably only sink in properly once I’ve retired but even now, I look at what we’ve done with a lot of happiness and joy.”
Despite becoming a free agent at arguably the worst possible time, with Covid-19 decimating some clubs’ budgets and having at least an effect on all, Moore is enthused – and, in typical humble fashion, a little surprised – that a number of clubs have expressed an interest in his services for next season and beyond.
“Now it’s time for me to go on and use that knowledge and experience wherever I go next,” he added. “I’d like to go and play consistently and get even more success. When you taste it, it makes you hungry for more.
“Watching my brother win promotion at Wembley [Stuart plays for Blackpool] made me think: ‘Yeah, I wouldn’t mind that again’. I fancy another promotion.
“I’m sad to be leaving, because of the people I have met and the memories I have made, but at the same time it feels like the right thing to do. I’m ready for the next challenge.
“I can’t control what happens, with Covid and everything else. I can’t choose who wants to sign me or what position they are in financially. But there’s no point worrying about it. The only thing I can control is myself, and how hard I work.
“As long as I’ve done everything I can, to give myself the best chance, then whatever happens I can say I did my best. But I still have a lot left in the tank and I’ll play until I can’t play anymore.”