My favourite goal: Aston Villa, January 2014
Ryan Flynn's giant-killing winner against Premier League Villa is Adam Davidson's favourite Blades goal
A fresh January day in 2014. Ryan Flynn latches on to a well-timed through ball from Tony McMahon, dances past a couple of defenders, and hits the back of the net. The 6,000 travelling Sheffield United fans blast a wall of sound across Villa Park, as three sides of the famous old stadium empty. Sheffield United have just progressed to the FA Cup 4th round by beating a team 51 places above them in the football league pyramid. That day was about more than giant killing, though. The cup was a welcome distraction at the time. After we’d failed to reach the play-off final despite being top of the league in February, after David “Wavy Dave” Weir’s 13 dreary games in charge left us at the foot of the table, we’d just about hit rock bottom as a fanbase. Nigel Clough had done a solid job in his first couple of months, picking up results and getting the squad playing consistently. But there was a long way to go yet. Did it matter that Aston Villa fielded a weakened team? Did it matter that Paul Lambert had downplayed the importance of the cup in the build up to this game? Did it matter that Christian Benteke couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo all night? Not really. Our lads wanted it more, and when Jamie Murphy put us in front early on, he put the home side under pressure.
Perhaps it was the confidence of half a dozen cans on the coach journey there, (plus a couple of pints in a Wetherspoons at the halfway point) but as soon as Villa equalised I unflinchingly said to my dad: “Doesn’t matter. We’re gonna win this.” A quick glance at my SkyBet account will show you that I’m not exactly an oracle when it comes to football, but I was right on the money with that prediction. From the initial shockwave of noise and the writhing mass of limbs, through strangers hugging and shouting in each other’s ears, through yelps and laughter and big lads toppling over across full rows of people, right up to arms aloft and singing in full-throated voice, it must have been barely two minutes. A moment of elation that marked a pivotal point in our season. We all know what happened in the cup, but our league form jump started from that point, too. It’s hard to deny that this result and Flynn’s goal was the catalyst. We’d turned a corner, and brushed away the sour first half of the season. That’s why we went so crazy for the goal. It was everything that had happened, the pent up frustration, the losses and disappointments, three managers in a calendar year and pundits wondering out loud about what had gone wrong at Bramall Lane. All that evaporated, thanks to one young lad with a wicked left foot. We finally had something to shout about.
Adam can be found tweeting @TuftyBall