Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Ballad Of Billy & Bobby

Sheffield United Youth  2  Burton Albion Youth  0

FA Youth Cup – Third Round

It’s very important not to get Billy and Bobby Gillespie confused.

Bobby Gillespie was the drummer for The Jesus & Mary Chain, but more famously, the singer with Primal Scream. Not one to swerve controversy, the Glaswegian has been involved in various incidents that drew attention to himself, notably defacing a ‘Make Poverty History’ poster, performing a Nazi salute at Glastonbury, suggesting a Tory MP should be stabbed to death, and being renowned for performing live while under the influence of varying substances. It would probably be an accurate description to call Gillespie a ‘Hell Raiser’.

Billy Gillespie was not a hell raiser by any means, he was an Irishman who played for Sheffield United over a twenty year period that crossed the First World War. He scored 137 goals in 492 games and is quite rightly inducted into the Blades hall of fame.

The Bramall Lane End
He played 25 games for Ireland but my interest in him centres around the period of 1932 to 1940 when he moved back over the water to take charge as Manager at my beloved Derry City FC. Held in such high esteem in Derry, the club changed its colours to red and white stripes to reflect his time with the Blades, and ultimately pay tribute to the man who put them on the footballing map.

While his influence on the Candystripes remains in perpetuity, Gillespie continued to scout for the Blades up until the Seventies, before passing away at his home in Kent in 1981.

Billy Gillespie
I’ve been to Derry City’s Brandywell Stadium significantly more times than I’ve set foot in Bramall Lane, which I guess is a bit unusual as I work in Sheffield and my company has always had a very close association with the club. In fact, I could count my visits on one hand.

My first visit came in the Dave Bassett era when with Tony Agana and Brian Deane upfront they beat fellow promotion chasers Notts County. I returned many years later to see George Burley’s Derby County win 1-0, while I also saw Sheffield FC play a friendly against Ajax at the Lane.

My last visit came at the close of the 2015-16 when Scunthorpe United won quite comfortably against an abject Blades, and the crowd decided to vent their anger at Manager Nigel Adkins, and the board. That was fine, except I was sat in the Directors Box at the time as a guest of one of the Vice Presidents. I can remember vividly one irate fan leaning over me to scream abuse at Chairman Kevin McCabe, it made sense now why they sat me in the seat nearest to the exit alleyway for supporters!

Spion Kop
I had no plans to go to the Lane tonight, well, no plans until the weather apocalypse hit us and pretty much the entire football calendar North of London was wiped out, unless you had undersoil heating of course, which Bramall Lane has.

The Railway Inn opposite the main car park provided pre-match solace on a bitterly cold evening where only the enthusiastic, or related, would be turning out to watch the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup, where fellow Championship side Burton Albion were to provide the opposition.

After a couple of latch lifters it was time to make my way through the turnstiles and into the Main Stand, where I stumbled across the aforementioned photographic hall of fame that sat upon the wall of the concourse. Tony Currie, Alan Woodward, Len Badger, Keith Edwards and Brian Deane were some of the famous names, along with Derry Billy, and that was when my thoughts turned to the Maiden City and the football team that I fell in love with back in 2005. A football team I have been back to see on numerous occasions ever since.

Things are looking up at the Lane right now, after finally escaping the drudgery of third tier football at the end of last season, they have started the current season with a bang and after leading at one stage, they now sit in a play off position.

The appointment of Chris Wilder has proved to be a masterstroke and with him at the helm, the club are probably in the best shape they’ve been in a significant number of seasons. The Premier League could happen at the end this season, and some may say that would be too early for the club, but, when is the right time to go up and trouser tens of millions of pounds? I would say at the earliest opportunity!

John Street
Bramall Lane is fantastic facility, seating over 30,000 and with modern facilities that would not be out of place in the top flight. Crowds are very healthy and they are well catered for at the ground with superb spectator amenities.

To be fair, only a few hundred pitched up tonight, huddled together in the middle section of the stand, whereas I chose to go as far back as possible to get the most elevated view, plus, I kind of assumed the smaller the gap between the seat and the roof, the warmer it would be!

The first half was goalless, but on the balance of play and the chances created, Burton would probably have felt they had the edge, however, as the second half progressed the complexion of the game changed significantly.

The Blades opened with more purpose, the passing was crisper and they showed more urgency. Jordan Doherty scored with a superbly placed effort from twenty five yards just after the break, and then on 65 minutes the same player produced a great bit of skill to flick the ball over his head and half volley into the bottom corner.

Birmingham City await in the next round for the young Blades, while Billy Gillespie’s Candystripes await the release of the League of Ireland fixtures next week, as they return to the Brandywell after a year out at Buncrana.

Bobby Gilliespie meanwhile, is sharpening his dagger for the next Tory Party Conference, assuming no one else gets in before him……… 

Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane

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