Sheffield United v West Brom: 'I’m not sure I’d do anything differently...’ - Patrick Suffo remembers 'Battle of Bramall Lane’

Back in 2002 Sheffield United's battle - in the most literal sense of the word - with their opponents this weekend, West Bromwich Albion, went down in football infamy.

By Danny Hall
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 1:20 pm

Later dubbed The Battle of Bramall Lane’, the match was abandoned, with West Brom leading 3-0, after United were reduced to SIX men by a combination of injury and ill-discipline.

The seeds for the chaos were sown the season previous, when United midfielder Georgos Santos was badly hurt after being elbowed by Albion's Andy Johnson and underwent a five-hour operation to insert a metal plate into his face.

Johnson, Santos alleges, didn’t apologise for the incident and even attempted to suggest that the Frenchman was partly culpable.

And Santos wasn't in a hurry to forget after being sent on from the bench. By that point United were already down to ten men, after Simon Tracey’s early red card, and West Brom were already two goals ahead.

"Georges came on because our few chances in the game had come from set-plays and free-kicks, and he’s a big lad," Suffo, who also saw red in the game, remembers.

"I don’t think he was sent out there to smash Johnson. In my mind, we’d already lost the game and didn’t do anything to get it abandoned or replayed.

"We were down to ten men after about ten minutes and everyone was very tired, having given more than they could in a normal game. It wasn’t intentional to stop the game… they’re only rumours."

Sheffield United's Patrick Suffo (left) becomes the third player to be sent off by referee Eddie Wolstenholme in the 'Battle of Bramall Lane' - Paul Barker/PA Wire.

With Santos and Suffo on the field, what followed went down in football folklore.

Derek McInnes' pass across midfield, intended for Johnson, was badly underhit and Santos seized his moment, smashing into Johnson and sending him flying.

Cue mayhem. Suffo headbutted McInnes in front of referee Eddie Wolstenholme and saw red. With Michael Brown and Rob Ullathorne later succumbing to injuries, the match was abandoned and the 3-0 result was later allowed to stand by the FA.

"George made the tackle, which was very, very bad tackle, but he had the incident before in mind, " Suffo added.

"Every player from West Brom jumped on George, and I wasn’t going to leave my teammate to get smashed while I stand there.

"I jumped in, and McInnes came from behind and grabbed me in my face, so I reacted how I reacted. I turned around and headbutted him.

"I didn’t go in there to try and kill anyone or hurt anyone… I tried to protect George.

"The ref was right next to me at the time but I didn’t think about that at the time… I’m not proud of what happened but it was in the heat of the moment. I’m not even sure I touched the ball that day!

"When I look back at my career and at the highlights, that game is right up there with winning the Olympics and playing in the World Cup. These are moments to remember, and I can’t speak about my career without mentioning that game.

"And, if I was back in the same situation, I don’t know if I’d react any differently."