Blades News

Another year over for roller-coaster Blades

Image for Another year over for roller-coaster Blades

It’s been a turbulent year as a Sheffield United supporter. As 2023 draws to a close, we take a look back at the last 365 days and reflect on the past year from a Blades perspective.

2023 began on 2nd January as United played their first game of the year, which ended in a 1-1 draw at Queens Park Rangers, thanks to John Egan’s late goal. Their remaining Championship campaign was a success also. They finished second behind Burnley. Their fate was sealed on 26th April, with four league games remaining, following a 2-0 victory at home to West Bromwich Albion.

January had been a quiet month for transfers with nobody coming in or going out. This was largely due to Prince Abdullah’s urgency in selling Sheffield United FC. He came close in February after Nigerian businessman Dozy Mmobuosi showed a keen interest and came close to purchasing the S2 club.

Perhaps, United’s biggest success of the 2022-23 season came not in the domestic league but in the FA Cup. Paul Heckingbottom had succeeded in rejuvenating a side which had narrowly missed out on promotion in 2022 after losing on penalties in the Play-Offs to Nottingham Forest.

The Blades FA Cup exploits began in Round Three with a 2-0 victory at Millwall before they were drawn at National League side Wrexham in Round Four. The tie was an underdog’s dream and the national press filled several columns discussing how the Welsh Dragons could prevail over ‘big time’ Sheffield United. Their dream came close to fruition. United had lead 1-0 through Oli McBurnie’s early goal but Wrexham found their feet and after the break had squeezed into the lead, though Oli Norwood soon drew the scores level. Daniel Jebbison was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident and the press looked to have their field day when Paul Mullen scored on 86 minutes. United had one last say in the story as Egan netted six minutes into stoppage time to earn a 3-3 draw and a replay at Bramall Lane.

With Hollywood owners in sight, the Disney Plus cameras were once again in full swing to capture the magic. Again, the Dragons almost scripted a fairytale ending but the Blades showed true Yorkshire grit and experience to get them over the line. Anel Amedhodzic had blasted the Blades in front before Mullen netted from the penalty spot. He was gifted an opportunity to fire the North Wales side ahead again from the spot, but Adam Davies guessed correctly to keep the scores level. In injury-time goals from skipper Billy Sharp and Sander Berge ensured a 3-1 win and a safe passage into Round Five.

United would go onto reach the semi-finals at Wembley Stadium after seeing off Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 via Illiman Ndiaye’s only goal of the game, which was followed by a sensational Tommy Doyle 90th-minute strike to beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2 in the Quarter-Finals. Hecky’s Blades would lose 3-0 in the semi-final to Manchester City, though the defeat was no embarrassment after playing out a fine performance.

Following promotion to the Premier League the Blades endured a difficult summer which saw both Ndiaye and Berge sold to Marseille and Burnley, respectively, whilst Billy Sharp was denied a new deal before taking his career to MLS with LA Galaxy. Transfers were thin on the ground too. Before the season kicked off on 12th August, which resulted in a 1-0 loss at home to Crystal Palace. Anis Ben Slimane (from Brondby), Bénie Traoré (BK Hácken), Auston Trusty (Arsenal), Vinicius Souza (Lommel), Yasser Larouci (loan, Troyes), and Gustavo Hamer (Coventry City), were all recruited. Meanwhile, Tom Davies (Everton), and Cameron Archer (Aston Villa), both later joined in permanent deals. The latter netted on his debut in a 2-2 draw at home to Everton – their first Premier League point of the season!

Supporters were excited by the arrival of James McAtee from Manchester City – joining on a seasons-long loan but were less happy after being on the end of big score-line hammerings. Despite losing 8-0 to Newcastle United and 5-0 at Arsenal, it was a 5-0 loss at fellow relegation cannon fodder Burnley which ultimately proved the final straw and Paul Heckingbottom’s final game in charge of the Blades.

Under Hecky, the Blades did register their first victory of the season, a 2-1 win at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on 4th November via Norwood’s injury-time penalty. Chris Wilder replaced the departing Heckingbottom and after losing 2-0 to Liverpool in his first game in charge (of his second spell), they registered a 1-0 win over Brentford. Archer netted the Blades 200th Premier League goal in a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa but they end 2023 still chasing their first away win of the season.

It may not be much fun sitting in the bottom three spots of the Premier League, though it is to be expected. The Blades have enjoyed many highs. On 20th September, the Blades were given news that no supporter wished to hear following the tragic death of Blades Women’s player, Maddy Cusack, at the age of 27.

Who knows what 2024 will bring? The optimist would love to see United retain their Premier League status but unless proper investment and recruitment is brought in during January then all we can hope for is relegation without embarrassing circumstances and come back stronger next season.

We would like to wish all supporters a Happy New Year and all the best for 2024.

Share this article