Former Sheffield United goalkeeper and pundit Paddy Kenny has said fans returning to Bramall Lane next season will be a huge help to the team as they aim for promotion, in an interview with Football Insider.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced stadiums will be allowed to return to full capacity from July 19th, just a few weeks before the Blades’ Championship opener against Birmingham City in South Yorkshire.
This announcement comes after nearly 18 months of disruption in the footballing world, with games in the UK being cancelled across the pyramid at the start of the pandemic and fans rarely having the chance to see their team in action since.
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There was a brief period where supporters were allowed back in at the end of 2020 and then near the end of last season – but this is the first time stadiums will be permitted to reach full capacity since March 2020.
With their recent relegation from the Premier League and a new manager now in place, Sheffield United’s players will be desperately needing their fans’ support ahead of what could be an exciting season – and former Blades’ keeper Paddy Kenny thinks Covid-19 has adversely affected the club in one particular way.
Speaking to Football Insider about the lack of fans inside Bramall Lane, Kenny said: “It seemed to play a big part last season.
“Going back to the season before last as well, Sheffield United were flying but then Covid hit and they tailed off towards the backend of that season.
“That has continued into this season. I suppose all clubs will say the same, but to get a full stadium of fans back in Bramall Lane will be massive for them.
“Obviously, I’ve played there and it’s a very special place when it’s full. I’m sure it will be a massive help for them.
“It’s just a relief we can get back to some normality and start watching games again.”
Paddy Kenny is right to point out their loss of form since the restart of football in June 2020, with the now-Championship outfit winning just three of their last ten games in the 2019/20 Premier League campaign, dropping three places to ninth after previously being just a couple of points off fourth place pre-pandemic.
Last season was even worse and they failed to win any of their first 17 games, effectively relegating them in January. However, their form was poor throughout the season, losing 29 of their 38 top-flight matches and becoming a shadow of what they were before Covid-19 hit.
Whether the lack of fans at Bramall Lane was the sole reason for their demise is questionable, but it would have been interesting to see how they would have fared in the 2020/21 campaign if Covid wasn’t a thing.
It was a shocking decline – but with a promotion-winning manager at the helm and fans set to return to Bramall Lane – they will go into the season as one of the favourites to be promoted.