The next game, managers and players are fond of saying, is always the most important.
But tomorrow night, before they go into battle at the KCOM Stadium, Sheffield United should reflect upon a fixture which took place over 14 months ago.
It was back then, during a chilly December evening in deepest Warwickshire, that manager Chris Wilder and his players found themselves stuck slap bang in the middle of a dispute between Coventry City’s controversial owners and more militant wings of the home club’s following.
They survived the pitch invasions and fake referee whistles to secure, courtesy of Billy Sharp’s brace, three precious League One points. Nearly a year-and-a-half and one promotion later, that toxic combination of trouble off the pitch and television cameras focused on it could force United to relive the situation all over again.
Hull City Action for Change, a group opposed to the Allam family’s stewardship of the East Yorkshire outfit, have organised a march ahead of United’s visit designed to highlight their grievances. But with SKY set to broadcast the match live, there have been suggestions some fans could continue their protests inside the ground once it gets underway.
“We, along with the Hull City Protesters Group, are holding a protest march before the Sheffield United game and urge as many supporters to participate as possible,” a statement, published by HCAFC on social media, read. “We will be congregating from 7pm at the West Park main gates and will eventually march to the West Stand entrance.”
“We hope that supporters stand in solidarity with each other, whether they decide they would like to protest or decide that protesting is not something they want to take part in,” it continued. “Together we can see real changes start to happen at Hull City AFC, and have a club we can feel proud to be an integral part of.”
HCAFC, whose manifesto includes the return of concessionary ticket prices for pensioners, children and the disabled, also want City’s “full playing name” included on team shirts, stadium branding and official media channels. This comes following the Allam’s repeated attempts to rebrand the club as Hull Tigers.
HCAFC, who were not invited to attend a supporters’ committee meeting with Ehab Allam, City’s vice-chairman, in November, stated that 59 per cent of respondents had backed calls for a whistle protest during United’s visit in a recent poll.
“We therefore respect the decision of the supporters and suggest that all supporters that want to protest in this manner bring their own whistle to the game,” the statement said. “Supporters are aware of the potential consequences of such actions but these consequences pale into insignificance compared to their fight to reclaim the club they hold so dear.”