James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: For Pete’s Sake, think of the fans and fix the fixtures

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Chuck Close touched on it, Gilbert O’Sullivan sang about it and Dr Seuss wrote a book on the subject, sort of, nearly half a century ago.

There is always, no matter how bad things seems, somebody worse off than yourself.

I was reminded of the saying when the English Football League released its fixture schedule for the new Championship season earlier this week. Sheffield United supporters expressed dismay after learning their team would be visiting Cardiff City, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham on Tuesday evenings. Meanwhile, across the city, Sheffield Wednesday fans were horrified to discover trips to Ipswich Town and Millwall had been handed exactly the same slot.

Followers of SKA Khabarovsk, newly promoted to the Russian Premier League, could be forgiven for cracking a wry smile at their angst. Located only 15 miles from the Chinese border, Aleksei Poddubskiy’s side face 10,350 mile round trip whenever they travel to Moscow. With a flight to and from the capital taking 19 hours, even if Vladmir Putin decides to pump billions into the country’s infrastructure, I suspect they won’t be going there and back in a day.

That, however, does not mean the authorities in this country should be let off the hook regarding matchday planning. Because to do so would represent the same race to the bottom which, whenever public sector workers threaten to strike over their pay or conditions, some members of society seem so keen to organise. “I don’t get all of that so why should they?” It’s short-sighted, myopic and self-defeating stuff.

There surely is no good reason, (other than the concerns of the emergency services perhaps), why the calendar can not be engineered so people are not forced to make long or overnight midweek journeys, using private rather than public transport, to cheer on their respective teams? Why derbies do not take place on festive or Bank Holidays when, as we know only too well, our expertly-planned public transfer system grinds to a halt.

Moscow is a long way from Khabarovsk

Moscow is a long way from Khabarovsk

It used to be a tradition. Which, to my mind, pretty much defeats the argument it is impossible to organise now.

Devising a computer program which factors mileage into the equation about who plays who, when and where, is surely not beyond the realms of possibility in an era of space travel and driverless cars?

Implement this change and, if any clubs take issue with the concept, let them be named and shamed.

Travelling can be tough late at night or on Bank Holidays

Travelling can be tough late at night or on Bank Holidays