The Blades haven’t embarked on any fixtures against our Great British neighbours since the summer of 2006, prior to our preparations for Premier League domination. They completed a 3-0 victory at Inverness Caledonian Thistle on 21 July in a testimonial for Ross Tokley. Three days later United won 3-1 at Greenock Morton, one of our opponents this summer.
In this summers’ predations, as they make another attempt to escape League One and join the Championship, they face three Scottish sides in a week when they take on Greenock Morton tomorrow, followed by games at Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers.
- 03 July – Greenock Morton (a) – 7:45PM
- 06 July – Cowdenbeath (a) – 3:00PM
- 10 July – Raith Rovers (a) – 7:45PM
Upon their return to S2 the Blades face further fixtures away from Bramall Lane, taking on; Bury (13 July), Mansfield Town (20 July) and at York City (27 July).
21 July 2006 – Inverness CT 0-3 Sheffield United
At the time this testimonial fixture was played out, both United and Inverness were Premier League sides within their own right, but it was clear from the offset that there was a contrast in difference between the top sides in England and Scotland as the South Yorkshire side dominate the game.
Within the opening minutes, John Rankin – Thistle’s record signing at £65,000 was shielded off the ball by the Blades record signing, Claude Davis (£3,000,000) – showing a weight of how much is involved in British Football.
However, the game wasn’t about money – but about how much match experience can be gained from the 90 minutes played out, as both clubs shared something in common for the following season to come – survival against relegation.
Caley, who were to kick-off their league season a week later had, had plenty of pre-season friendlies under their belts, whilst united had barely got off the beach but the overall score-line of three goals without reply with strikes from Ade Akinbiyi who netted a brace and a well taken free-kick from Alan Quinn matched the overall quality of the two teams – regardless, Inverness were guilty of poor finishing and Blades boss Neil Warnock would have felt fortunate once the final whistle blew.
Paddy Kenny was in fine form as his team prepared for a season in the Premier League. Akinbiyi too showed his capabilities, but also showed how frustrating a player he can be when not only scoring twice showed how easy he finds it to miss opportunities in front of goal.
At the other end there were chances afoot for Thistle, Dennis Wyness and Graham Bayne came close before Russell Duncan’s shot was parried onto the woodwork.
24 July 2006 – Greenock Morton 1-3 Sheffield United
Greenock boss Jim McInally praised his side for their heroic performance against Sheffield United, despite losing the game by three goals to one. A late strike from former Leeds man Derek Lilley gave scant consolation for their hard worked performance.
Neil Warnock had spent in the summer and their class in attack showed, on the half hour mark United took the lead, veteran Neil Shipperley controlled and fired past David McGurn. Paddy Kenny had been rested for this match with stand-in stopper Darren Ward proving that he was just as capable – Stevenson’s free-kick was fired straight at him.
On the 58th minute the tourists doubled their lead when McGurn turned home Phil Jagielka’s point-blank effort into his own net, unfortunate for the keeper but glory for the defender who dared to attack.
Lilley restored home pride when Stevenson’s ball split the defence in two and caused chaos for the rearguard, the midfielder duly finished, but nine minutes from time a rasp shot from unlikely source Rob Kozluk extended the visitors lead and put the match beyond Greenock.
Neil Warnock said: "The game was played in a great spirit and I was impressed with Morton. "It was lovely to watch the verve and enthusiasm they put in, and I will be gutted if they don't go up as champions this season.
"I was particularly impressed by the lad Stevenson in midfield and I also thought Scott McLaughlin did well in that area. We have some good players with a bit of pace and their lads at the back, particularly the big captain Stewart Greacen, stuck to his task well. On this showing, I think they are in for a good season at Morton."