James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Hell hath no fury like an early-leaver scorned

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Criticise us at your peril.

As anyone who has ever dared take a pop at folk who part company with hard earned cash to watch our respective clubs in action knows, hell hath no fury like a football supporter scorned.

Because, in case you’d forgotten, we pay their bloody wages. Those feckless Fancy Dans would be nothing, bloomin’ nothing, if it weren’t for you and me. Well, us and that bumper television deal granted.

But on several occasions following Sheffield United this season, not to mention during a fair few Premier League matches too, I’ve wondered whether ‘supporter’ is now the correct term for some of those who turn-up to witness fixtures in the flesh. Would ‘consumer’ be more accurate? Probably, yes.

And, before my email inbox is flooded with invective, that’s not a dig. Merely an observation. And a serious, genuine one at that.

I’ll give you a recent example. Last weekend, when Nigel Clough’s side were down to 10 men and trailing Coventry City with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, at least 150 people got out of their seats and left. A few moments later, while they were probably making their way along Bramall Lane, United were level thanks to Jamie Murphy and Michael Doyle.

It only, as the cliché goes, takes a second to score a goal. And Clough’s team, before Tuesday’s visit to Rochdale, had claimed 29 of their 64 during the final 15 minutes of games. Meaning, if those intent on a early exit always repeated the trick, they’d have missed a whopping 45 per cent of United’s efforts this term.

Admittedly, there’s often good reason why it’s impossible to stay until the bitter end. Especially when those in charge of organising football’s calendar and the public transport system seem incapable of working out a schedule which doesn’t treat the paying public with contempt.

But money, the amount pro’s earn and the cost of tickets, seems to have skewed many folk’s relationship with the sport. Not most. Definitely, though, some. Which probably helps to explain why they’re so increasingly intolerant of poor results or performances. Ignore the fact it’s played by fallible human-beings and demand near perfection, or their idea of it, every single time.

Anyway, that’s my theory. And because I pay for my season ticket, don’t @**$* well tell me otherwise.

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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