SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

‘As fun as a root canal’ – Sheffield United “there for the taking” for dynamic Liverpool

It’s all doom and gloom at Sheffield United currently, but Liverpool’s away form could give the struggling Blades hope.

The Reds know that three points are essential at Bramall Lane on Wednesday evening, considering their opponents are currently bottom of the Premier League.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men haven’t always shone on the road this season, with only two victories coming from seven away league outings in 2023/24, so it may not be plain sailing.

For the Blades, they know that results simply must improve to avoid relegation straight back to the Championship, and the pressure has led to Paul Heckingbottom’s imminent sacking.

With the midweek action almost upon us, TIA’s Henry Jackson spoke to Hal Stewart, co-host of the Sheff United Way YouTube Channel and Podcast (@HalTheBlade) to discuss a challenging season so far, Wednesday’s game and much more.

 

How tough has life been back in the Premier League for Sheffield United?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 7, 2022: Sheffield United's John Fleck during the Football League Championship match between Sheffield United FC and Fulham FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Wolves at home was fun! Really enjoyed moments of that.

The rest has been about as fun as watching your mother fall backwards down a flight of concrete steps whilst you yourself are getting a root canal.

Even the Wolves win was in a manner I don’t enjoy, with VAR playing a big part. That’s not how I want to win or lose football matches.

I’m also not in favour of this ridiculous amount of injury time that has seemingly crept into the Premier League.

Even if it goes towards helping us get a result, it’s not consistent with the rest of Europe or world football – it’s not even how they are approaching it in the Championship, the game needs to be uniform in my opinion.

Not just one league doing it ‘their way’.

 

Is it time for a change of manager?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 7, 2022: Sheffield United's manager Paul Heckingbottom during the Football League Championship match between Sheffield United FC and Fulham FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It might have happened by the time you read this! Who knows? (Editor’s note: Confirmation over Heckingbottom’s sacking expected)

I don’t like calling for managers heads. It’s not my style. I don’t like talking about another man’s job.

Unfortunately, the nature of running a successful YouTube channel specifically dedicated to your club means you inevitably have to talk about managerial changes.

I like Paul Heckingbottom, he seems an articulate, well-educated and decent man, but one is judged in this industry by results on the pitch and performance.

Both have been poor.

 

Who has shone and disappointed for the Blades?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 31, 2012: Liverpool's Jack Robinson in action against Swansea City during the Football League Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s hard to say, most of them have been disappointing.

Anel Ahmedhodzic has probably been the most disappointing because we expected him to take to the Premier League like a duck to water and he hasn’t quite hit the heights we hoped for.

He will come good, either for us or for another top flight team. I doubt he will still be with us next season if we go down.

Jack Robinson is always dependable, the former Liverpool defender. He gives his all and I like him.

 

How is former Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster faring?

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 29, 2020: Sheffield United's Rhian Brewster looks dejected at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Burnley FC and Sheffield United FC at Turf Moor. Burnley won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Injured. Not much else left to say. Poor lad, he’s picked up injury after injury and can’t get a run of games.

He seems like a great kid, too.

I wish him well, but it hasn’t worked out at United. We will probably look back on his transfer as one of the worst in our entire history.

 

What’s one thing you would change at the club?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 7, 2022: A young Sheffield United supporter with a banner "Up The Blades" during the Football League Championship match between Sheffield United FC and Fulham FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I mean…right now, that’s impossible. There’s so many things.

If I was in charge of Sheffield United it would be run so completely differently – it would be so fan-facing, so transparent, so open and honest that it would be unrecognisable from what we see today.

Think the way Wrexham are run but better.

 

What’s your take on VAR? In favour of it?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 30, 2023: A goal scored by Liverpool's Luis Díaz, given on the pitch as offside, is mistakenly confiemd by VAR who believe the onfield decision was a goal, during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Never wanted it, hate it.

We saw in the World Cup in Russia how it could operate, minimally, and be mildly successful, but now it’s forensic. It ruins the flow of the game. It is such a big part of every game now.

I never feel like I can celebrate a goal. Also, you don’t have VAR for every decision either, which makes no sense to me.

Goals can come from corners, so why not review if the ball did indeed come off a defender or an attacker?

If you’re really going to be so detailed and granular about it, have it for everything or nothing. It was supposed to be just the clear and obvious decisions – well it isn’t, so we are way past that ideal.

 

Looking at Liverpool, how you do assess their title chances?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

My only focus is on United, to be honest. I don’t watch any other Premier League football.

I watch a lot of Cypriot lower league and Bundesliga 2, but the top flight in England isn’t what I consider enjoyable or ‘real football’.

It was, once, but not anymore.

So I don’t have much of an opinion, nor do I care. Whichever team has the most money will win the league.

 

Where will the key battles take place on Wednesday?

NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 27, 2023: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez (L) celebrates with team-mate Mohamed Salah after scoring the winning second goal during the FA Premier League match between Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC at St James' Park. Liverpool won 2-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I bet everyone says ‘midfield’, so I’ll be a contrarian and say our defence will be working overtime to deal with your attackers and this will be where the game is decided.

We don’t have much pace at the back and this could be where we are exposed.

Decisions on the ball will also be key because we aren’t good at keep possession or using the ball intelligently when we have it.

There’s a lack of confidence seemingly through the side and I would have fancied us to give you a proper game last season when we were in the Championship.

At that point, we arguably had a stronger side brimming with confidence, but this time around, after a 5-0 defeat to the bottom team in the league, we will be there for the taking.

 

Finally, what’s your prediction?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Liverpool's match-winning goal-scorer Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-3. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We will either put up a good show and give it a real go and lose, or get hammered. There will be no in-between.