Delay the roast. Fresh from Arsenal last week, is another Sunday 14:00 kick-off at Carrow Road. This week we welcome our fellow promotion winners from last season’s Championship – Sheffield United.
In recent years a modern-day ‘rivalry’ has emerged between Farke’s Canaries and Chris Wilder’s Blades. It was sparked before Norwich’s trip to Bramall Lane on 16th September 2017 when poor time-keeping, on City’s part, prompted a verbal outburst from a clearly agitated Wilder. Wilder’s mood was not helped by a Norwich win (0-1) thanks to a rare goal from Yanic Wildschut.
Sheffield United got their revenge later in the season, winning 1-2 at Carrow Road. A win celebrated passionately by the United boss as he marched across the turf towards the away end pumping fist on to badge.
The rivalry intensified the following 2018/19 season as both teams embarked on an unlikely march to promotion. When Sheffield beat us 2-1 early in the campaign, Daniel Farke was under severe pressure. Fortunately, that was a distant memory by 26 January 2019 as the two played out a top-quality 2-2 draw in the top-of-the-table clash.
By now there was healthy respect between bosses, players and fans as both clubs became locked in a three-way battle for promotion. Then, with Leeds United out of the equation, a battle to win the title. And now in the Premier League, we are united as underdogs and a common desire to prove the pundits wrong
This is all in the present, our first meeting was at the old Nest ground, in its final season hosting football, 1934/35. 14,243 were risking life and limb to witness a 3-1 home win. Later in the season, Norwich made their debut at Bramall Lane, the Football Leagues oldest ground, hosting football (and cricket) since 1862. A 1-1 draw was a result reflective of mid-table finishes for both clubs.
In 1970/71 Norwich picked up four points versus a Sheffield United team that finished second in Divison Two and as a result were promoted to Division One. Norwich, of course, followed them the next season to set up our first-ever top-flight match on 9th September 1972. The 1-1 draw represented an excellent start to our debut season in Division One, making it five unbeaten at home.
A first away win in Sheffield came in the 1975/76 season (at the 14th attempt), which ended with a record tenth place finish for Norwich. Sheffield United, in contrast, finished rock bottom, winning just twice on the road. One of those rare away wins coming at Carrow Road in April 1976.
The next time we played each other was 1985/86, another golden season for The Canaries in the second tier. Similar to last year, the season struggled to get going with just one win in the opening five. A 4-0 thrashing of Sheffield United on 7th September 1985 proved the turning point as City embarked on a relentless march to the title, including a 2-5 win at Bramall Lane. This double was part of four consecutive home wins against the Yorkshiremen with City scoring 15 goals in the process.
As the above suggests, we actually have a good record versus Sheffield United. Between 1996 and 2001, for example, there was a run of 12 games, in which we lost just once. That unbeaten run included an FA Cup Third round win in January 1997. As is a common theme in my ‘we meet again’ series, often the biggest clashes between Norwich and our opponents, in this case, Sheffield United, came in the FA Cup.
United have lifted the cup four times, all of which pre-dated our first meeting with them. In contrast we have only reached the semi-finals three times and on two of those occasions we knocked out The Blades on route. The first was during the magical 1959 cup run and a quarter-final tie at second Division promotion-chasing Sheffield United.
The 1-1 was notable for the bravery of Norwich keeper Ken Nethercott, who played the final 30 minutes with a dislocated shoulder. Hall of Famer, Terry Bly notched a double, in the Carrow Road replay, as an ecstatic home crowd witnessed a 3-2 win and with it Norwich’s first appearance in the FA Cup semi-final.
1988/89 was a different scenario but equally as exciting. This time Norwich were clear favourites flying high in Division One while United languished in Division Three. Norwich still had a job to do in front of an expectant Carrow Road. And it was tough going, locked at 2-2 before Dale Gordon’s late winner sealed another 3-2 cup win and a quarter-final date with West Ham.
In our recent histories, we have both spent time in League One. Sheffield were there as recently 2016 when supporter Chris Wilder took the job on and has not looked back since. Sunday’s game is the first top-flight match since April 1994 when again Norwich contrived to lose at home but it was the Blades that went down. The Premier League campaign before, City doubled Sheffield United on their way to third place.
Looking at the trends, if 1976 and 1994 are to be believed, then a Sheffield win at Carrow Road equals relegation for them at the end of the season. Either way that’s not likely to happen as Wilder’s United look at home in the Premier League. A trend Norwich would prefer to focus on is 1985/86 where a big win could re-ignite our season.