James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Be proud, not petty, about a special club

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“L’enfer, c’est les autres.”

Or to put it another way, in plain Yorkshire, “Ell is ower fowk.”

Ontological philosophy and French existentialists don’t usually crop-up in conversation when discussing Sheffield United. But, more than once in recent weeks, I’ve been reminded of Jean Paul Sartre’s play ‘No Exit’ as a section of those who follow Nigel Clough’s side paint an increasingly bleak picture of Bramall Lane. Just like Joseph, Ines and Estelle, the central characters in this acclaimed piece of work, they seem condemned to spend eternity locked in a room and torturing each other with their misery.

It really is a crying shame. Not because these poor souls are unhappy. Some people seem to derive perverse pleasure from being put upon. There’s a misguided correlation, growing throughout the game as a whole, between strife and the size of the fan.

Rather, because for all its faults and imperfections, United is a special club. One which, at Leyton Orient tomorrow, could take a step towards ending its exile from Championship competition by securing a play-off place.

An achievement that, understandably, might not set champagne corks popping across the red and white half of the Steel City. But disproves the notion Clough’s side is “s**t” as many label them on radio phone-in shows or the internet.

They’re actually pretty good. Could be better, admittedly. Fallible, yes.

But the worst thing since heaven knows when? Definitely not.

The recent tributes paid to a devoted supporter who passed away, the sight of a manager, often willing to sacrifice long-term aims for selfish short-term gains, taking part in a sponsored sleepout the night before a key fixture and determination of board members to engage, albeit not always with the best sense of timing, underline that United is a club full of well-meaning, responsible individuals. Trust me, not all are.

There are plenty of other examples to promote this theory too. Including confirmation the away end at the Matchroom Stadium has sold-out.

In a region scarred by sporting faultlines, there are more than enough folk happy to lambast United without many of their own joining in too.

Criticise and express opinion. Hold it to account. But also be damn proud of what you’ve got.

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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