James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Bramall Lane's greatest ever must be immortalised in bronze
Tomorrow, when Sheffield United stage their final home match of 2017, another huge crowd will descend upon Bramall Lane.
Many of those coming to watch their Championship fixture against Bolton Wanderers will walk past statues of Joe Shaw, the hosts’ leading appearance maker, and Derek Dooley, their former chairman, which dominate the landscape outside the South Stand.
But, as Chris Wilder’s side prepare the welcome in the New Year, they should resolve to ensure a third is standing between these two legendary figures in 12 months time.
It seems highly unusual that Tony Currie, the former England midfielder and by common consent United’s greatest ever player, has not received similar recognition since announcing his retirement over three decades ago. Shaw and Dooley undoubtedly deserve their honours. But so does Currie; while he is still alive and kicking, not posthumously.
Wilder, whose appointment has transformed a club sleepwalking towards national irrelevance into a standard bearer for everyone who believes football is about more than budgets and balance sheets, has frequently spoken about the importance of its former players. Currie, together with Len Badger and Ted Hemsley, is inevitably among the most namechecked. The three, who played alongside each other in the legendary United team of the early Seventies, are very different people. But, still great friends, they are bound together by a shared love of all things Blades.
That passion, the knowledge they acquired during a combined total of over three decades wearing the famous red and white striped jersey, could be put to much better use than simply acting as ambassadors or sounding boards for Wilder and his staff.
Every new player, starting with those signed during next month’s transfer window, should be made to spend an hour in their company learning what it means to represent United. It would instil a greater sense of pride, place and most importantly community in those tasked with ensuring 2018 is the beginning of another bright new era. Ensure they are aware of what supporters demand, Make them understand this great sporting institution’s principles and proud history. It might sound old fashioned but, I am absolutely convinced, would prove worth its weight in gold.
But back to Currie; a wonderful technician with magical skills who hypnotised opponents and always entertained.
In February, when United hold a prestigious dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his arrival from Watford, they should make an announcement. Reveal, after the entrées, plat principals et desserts have all been eaten, that he is also being immortalised in bronze.