James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: If you tear-up your ticket, you won’t win a prize

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They always say never assume.

But there’s no danger of making an ass out of you and me, I’m pretty damn certain, by figuring that everyone connected with Sheffield United wants to see Nigel Clough’s side competing in the Championship next term.

Why is why, as an objective but clearly interested observer, the timing of the mutinous rumblings among some sections of their support is difficult to fathom.

Yes, United could do with a win at present. Yes, over the past three weeks especially, results can hardly be described as great. But, fifth in the League One table and having completed a game less than many of those around them, destiny remains in their own hands.

The play-offs might be something of a lottery. Only a masochist would agree it’s a good idea to buy a ticket and then tear it up before the prize draw.

The frustration is understandable. United followers have spent 43 months being told they don’t belong in this division by all and sundry because of the enviable resources, including large and resolute attendance levels, the club enjoys.

But, without wishing to put too fine a point on it, they guarantee b****r all. In sport, just as in life, nobody automatically deserves anything. Other than a decent home, food, water and respect for their human rights.

Doubtless, by refusing to add my voice to calls for a change in the dug-out, boardroom and elsewhere I’ll be labelled an apologist for the regime. I’m not. They’ve made some inspired decisions since I began reporting on United and some horrendous ones too. Usually, it must be said, when they’ve tried to be populist.

But forgive me if I’m not, despite defending everyone’s right to dissent, appalled by the sight of a club failing to win five matches. Because, to use newspaper parlance, football team suffers dip in form shock.

Okay, there are issues which need addressing. Not least the frailty which has seen Clough’s squad keep 13 clean sheets this term. Questions should be asked if it contributes to another season outside the second tier.

But United in crisis? Do me a favour.

Wembley, if top six qualification is secured, might not be the route United would have chosen. But it is a route nonetheless.

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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