A year exactly since Sheffield United beat Norwich 1-0 in front of 30,00 fans to maintain their unlikely bid for European football, the stadium is empty , the club are bottom of the league and beloved manager Chris Wilder is reportedly facing the axe.
Like so many things , this turn of events would have been unimaginable on March 7 2020. The plight of the Blades has been a microcosm of a miserable 12 months for Sheffield and the world.
When football returned after 100 days of COVID enforced suspension , something seemed different about United. A side chasing Europe pre lockdown began to plummet although a 9th place finish was beyond most fans wildest dreams.
Has the lack of fans at the stadium contributed to their plight? Dave Law ,55 , a season ticket holder who has attended games since 1973 thinks so.
Mr Law said: “Last season we were riding high on the crest of a wave. We didn’t have the quality to match other Premier League teams but we matched them in passion and work rate and that extra push came from the fans. Now the scales have been tipped the other way”.
Widespread reports suggest that long serving manager and Blades icon Chris Wilder is to lose his job today , a decision that many fans believe would not have been taken if 30,000 fans were in the stadium.
Off the pitch , COVID-19 has taken so much away from so many and fans miss the weekly ritual of going to the game every weekend. For many it is a lifeline at the end of a difficult week. Law says: ” It has had a serious impact on peoples mental health. Not being able to meet up with their pals, go for a pint and chat about the match. For some people it truly is their only outlet”.
While the 2020/21 season has been calamitous and a return to the Championship a near certainty, a light exists at the end of the tunnel for matchgoing fans.
The roadmap out of lockdown could see 10,000 fans return to Bramall Lane for the final few games of the season and full crowds for the beginning of the next campaign in August.
When asked what he’s looking forward to about returning to the ground, Mr Law said: “Walking up the steps to the South Stand , saying hello to all the familiar faces , eventually getting to the top to be with all my pals.”