The football gods smiled kindly on Tony Currie when they devised this month’s Championship schedule.
Okay, so they were clearly enjoying a day off when it was confirmed Sheffield United’s match against Leicester City would take place on the same night as a dinner marking the 50th anniversary of his arrival. But arranging games with Leeds and Queens Park Rangers so close to the big day? The former England midfielder, who represented both after leaving Bramall Lane 42 years ago, obviously impressed the guys and girls upstairs with his heaven sent skills.
Currie, of course, eventually returned to the place he calls “home” after becoming United’s football in the community coordinator in 1988. Now aged 68 and a prominent club ambassador, the man officially named as their greatest ever player still remains there today. Last weekend, less than 24 hours after being feted by fans and former team mates during the celebratory event, Currie telephoned a local radio station to reiterate his love for all things United after making the same confession to this newspaper nearly a fortnight earlier.
The word “officially” is important because it brings me to a crucial point: the absence of a statue recognising Currie’s talents at their stadium today. Or, alternatively, a stand named in his honour. The TC10 restaurant is something but, with respect, does not quite cut it.
Admittedly, ask 100 supporters who is the most gifted individual to pull on a United jersey and you will get multifarious answers. Some respondents would prioritise tackling over passing. Others, by virtue of their age, appearances in the Premier League. Jimmy Hagan is guaranteed to feature thanks to his smarts and long service record. Currie, albeit in a different capacity, also ticks this box. It was touching, during a recent conversation with Yours truly, to hear him choke with emotion on the other end of the telephone when I mentioned how manager Chris Wilder had referenced this in a preparatory interview.
Both Hagan and Derek Dooley, one of the city’s most respected sporting figures and possibly the only person revered by followers of its two rival clubs, are both immortalised in bronze outside United’s ground. Deservedly, absolutely deservedly, too. But it does seem strange that, having been identified by the club itself as the best player ever to wear the famous red and white stripes, Currie is not out there keeping them company.