Blades-Mad Season Review: 2011-12 (Part One)
Updated Tuesday, 12th June 2012
Deadbat_DB reviews the Blades 2011-12 League One season. In Part One he overlooks the events which happened from pre-season all the way to December.
I will begin with the review and a breakdown of the board and manager. I have graded the board, the manager, players and the fans; in a traditional school report style of A+ to F- (every player who started at least one league game).
However, I have had to grade players based on the games they did play so some players who played a lot more; may still get a lower grade despite disproportionate number of games in comparison. If I have missed anyone then please say!
I remember back to the end of last season and vividly recall seeing Kevin McCabe boarding a train to London as I travelled to work. The same day he rightly decided to dispense with the services of Micky Adams after an awful spell in charge had seen him unable to turn around a struggling side and a season that had started badly eventually culminated in relegation. However, we had just seen the FA Youth Cup final and were excited about the emergence of several promising youngsters we had seen in these games. There were rumours about Roberto Di Matteo (wonder what happened to him?), Mark Robins, Phil Brown and then suddenly Danny Wilson. Surely the last one was a rouse and it would not happen? He had been sacked by Swindon and was an ex Wednesday player and manager.
I recall having a day off work on Friday, May 27th and going with the family to Chatsworth for a day when my phone confirmed via text that an appointment had been made. ‘F*****g Danny Wilson!’ was the exact message sent to me from a friend. Whilst the car park protests seemed a tad over the top it seemed a very odd appointment to say the least. For me it was not about ********* connections more about him being somewhat of a journeyman manager and not such a successful one in recent years as he bobbed around the lower leagues from Hartlepool to MK Dons to Swindon.
His first interviews were positive and he spoke very well seeming unfazed by the negative reaction from many supporters. We saw some players move on (Henderson, Yeates and numerous loanees went back) but as the season started, we had managed to retain the likes of Stephen Quinn, Matt Lowton, Nick Montgomery, Lee Williamson although Ched Evans was out injured as speculation mounted over a possible court case over an alleged rape in the summer. There were a sprinkling of new signings with Jean Francois Lecsinel from Swindon, Chris Porter from Derby and Ryan Flynn, the only cash signing, came in from Falkirk.
United also signed Wolves winger Nathaniel Mendez Laing on loan and former Burnley man Kevin McDonald was also on trial and was to soon to join the squad.
August The season began with a big United following of nearly 4,000 Blades following them to Boundary Park and a solid performance saw them get off to winning start with a first goal for the impressive Maguire and a tidy finish from Cresswell. The victory was well deserved with Quinn looking a stand out player. After a league cup win on penalties at Hartlepool, the following week saw a brace of wins in different circumstances as Brentford were beaten with ease thanks to Jordan Slew and Cresswell again. McDonald made his bow in this game and showed attributes of poise and passing that United had been crying out for in recent campaigns. The game in the midweek with Walsall was not as straight forward though and some erratic keeping from Steve Simonsen throughout the evening contributed to the Blades being 2-0 behind. A stirring fight back led by substitute Lee Williamson saw United come back and win the game 3-2 with a Cresswell penalty proving to be the winner. United dropped their first points the following Saturday with a draw at Tranmere after Nick Montgomery’s out of character 30 yard finish. United went out of the cup at Everton but were soon back to winning ways with another hard fought win at Yeovil with Chris Porter scoring his first goal. At the end of the month Jordan Slew or rather his agent decided he would be better served playing academy/reserve football at Blackburn rather than league football at the Lane and they both took their pieces of gold to infuriate Wilson. A less controversial departure saw Daniel Bogdanovic leave the Lane for Blackpool but manager Danny Wilson opted not to bring in any further players. The month ended with some of the backups playing in a comeback win at Burton in the opening round of the Johnstone Paint Trophy.
September United’s impressive start to the season continued with the excellent and patient passing football that had surprised and delighted many fans. A 4-0 thumping of Bury with cameos from McAllister and Tonne saw United joint top and this was followed up by a 1-1 draw at Scunthorpe in which Evans came back into the fold to earn a point against the Iron, so long United’s bogey team. The first defeat came in strange circumstances as long time unbeaten Huddersfield overpowered United in a clinical spell to neat three goals in quick succession at the Kop end in a game that was relatively even for the most part. The following game United bounced back by thumping Colchester with Evans on target again but then somehow contrived to lose after battering bottom side Wycombe for much of the game without being able to take any of the many chances they created. Still the football for the most part was excellent with youngster Maguire and Lowton excellent and players who had been so criticised the previous season, Collins and Doyle, seemingly galvanised by Wilson’s fresh style of passing and patient football.
October The defeat at Adams Parks was followed by another defeat as the Blades lost again at home; this time to league leaders Charlton who also clinically took their chances in another close contest. The good start to the season had been undermined somewhat by 3 defeats in 4 games that left United back in 6th place. After they undeservedly beat Rotherham to move on in the Johnstone Paint trophy; it was time for the first Derby of the season as Wednesday arrived at the Lane. In front of a 28,000 crowd, United scored twice in the first half thanks to Quinn and Evans and with just around 10 minutes to go it seemed as if the honours were going to the red and white side of the city. However two late goals aided by more poor goalkeeping from Steve Simonsen gave Wednesday an unlikely draw and left Blades fans gutted. Undeterred United scored 4 goals at Preston with new loan signings Billy Clarke and Matt Phillips highly influential and Lee Williamson scoring a brace. They were unable to build on this as another goalkeeping mistake from Simonsen gave Orient a stoppage time draw a week later. United brought in young George Long and he performed creditably in a 2-1 win against a very decent MK Dons side. The following Saturday though keeper Long and many others had a nightmare as United let in 4 goals to struggling Exeter in a game they threw away so many times in an 8 goal score draw.
November United’s sticky spell in performances and results continued with a defeat at Stevenage (with Simonsen back in goal) and then a poor display to bow out on penalties to Bradford in the JP Trophy. This loss and the manner of it with many players seemingly having reverted to the poor play and confidence of the end of last season after such a bright start; seemed to galvanise the team. It seemed Wilson’s words had the effect as United then went on their best run of the season. They beat Oxford in the FA Cup and then Carlisle (through Evans) in the league at the Lane. They then scored late, thanks to Evans again, at the B2Net to beat neighbours Chesterfield.
December The run continued with another cup win; this time against Torquay in a game that was played in difficult circumstances after the untimely passing of former manager Gary Speed. United continued their impressive form beating Rochdale comfortably with Evans scoring another brace and then winning well at Bournemouth with two own goals, both made by Evans giving the Blades fans plenty of Xmas cheer. Two games immediately after Christmas saw United beat Notts County in front of the Sky cameras and then saw off Hartlepool a few days later with another powerful performance.