If anybody hasn’t yet heard Tony Currie’s call to Praise or Grumble last Saturday evening, make sure you listen to the podcast.
TC was fighting back the tears as he told the listeners how grateful he was for the affection he has received from Blades fans since his arrival in Sheffield 50 years ago this month.
In response several callers said how much they had enjoyed watching Tony play, how he was the best they had seen at the Lane, and what a great man he is. It’s a pity United’s match at Leicester was moved to Friday, so his anniversary bash didn’t get the attention it deserved.
I don’t remember TC signing for United, but the following season, 1968/69, is the first one that I started paying attention to the Blades. In fact, 1968 is the year all my football memories begin – the FA Cup final between West Brom and Everton, Manchester United winning the European Cup, and John Tudor scoring both goals in a 2-0 win at Bury the day my cousin got married.
My first visit to the Lane was in April 1969, which is the night I first became properly aware of Tony Currie. It was a County Cup semi-final replay (though I didn’t know this at the time) against Barnsley, and the main reason we went was that my schoolmate’s dad, Roy Ironside, was supposed to be playing for Barnsley. The Ironsides lived near us on the Thorpe House estate.
When the teams came out – no extravagant warm-ups and stretches in those days – the United players came to the Kop end and started kicking balls about. I was right at the front, leaning on the old iron railings just to the side of the net. During the kickabout TC had a shot from what was probably the edge of the area. It smacked against the crossbar, which to my young eyes continued to shake for minutes afterwards. I was hooked, and from that moment TC was my favourite player, even before I had seen him play. As it turned out, Roy Ironside didn’t play and was probably glad he didn’t, as his replacement Brian Arblaster let in nine goals. Somehow, TC didn’t score any of them, but he must have created a few.
Being reliant on a dad who preferred snooker and cycling to football, I wasn’t a regular at the Lane until the 1971/72 season, but I saw a few in the memorable 70/71 promotion season, including a League Cup win over Leeds United when TC scored the only goal. I wasn’t there that Tuesday night in September 1973 when TC sat on the ball when United beat Arsenal 5-0 in revenge for Alan Ball doing the same when Arsenal won at the Lane by the same score 18 months earlier. Instead, my dad made me go for a swimming lesson at Heeley Baths. Nor was I there for the famous kiss with Alan Birchenall in 1975, but I was for the “quality goal by a quality player” against West Ham a few weeks earlier. Another great memory is a thundering header (a header!) in a 3-3 draw with Manchester City in 1972, when again I was right at the front to see it in all its glory.
TC’s final season with United was not a good one as it ended in a dreadful relegation, but at least I saw his last two appearances, and also his last United goal, in my first long-distance away trip to Norwich. He is by a large distance the best player United have had in the 50 years he has been associated with the club.