Friday, 27 April 2012

United We Stand - Blades Propaganda

A slightly unusual post today. From the start of the season I have developed an interest in football art and posters. It started off with The Ball Is Round highlighting the excellent work of Proworx and the posters they created for each home game at Lewes FC. You can see examples here. Then in recent weeks I came across the excellent US based football culture site Pitch Invasion and they highlighted the work of Portland Timbers supporter Brent Diskin creating propaganda posters for his team. I loved the ideas and started looking at how I could develop similar for Sheffield United with my fledgling Photoshop skills. After putting up my first efforts on twitter, they got a positive response and other Blades fans got involved.

Given the week the Blades have had and the importance of tomorrow's match against Stevenage, we thought now would be a good time to galvanise the support and share our efforts.

I would love to think that if the response is positive we could encourage the club to include them (with the creators agreement), along with any others that might subsequently be created, in the matchday programmes next year. A nice alternative to player pull outs. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Based on a US WWII poster, the message is appropriate and I like the use of morse code (Ian Rands)

Shamelessly utilising a Brent Diskin design which takes a Russian space race poster      (Ian Rands)

A missile poster provided the perfect slogan, but needed a little change of style & colour      (Ian Rands)

What the World Was Waiting For - Based On The Stone Roses current tour posters         (Ian Rands)

Lee Doane decided to take on a slogan increasingly used by United fans. With our cross city rivals always using one 'M' word, Blades fans like to respond with another. The fist image seemed appropriate with the subtle addition of the rose and blades of United's badge.

  (Lee Doane)

Blades supporter Andrew Clarkson is a photographer  and put his artistic skills to the challenge;

"I've always enjoyed looking at historical propaganda posters and thought its a shame that the use of them seems to have died out. My United designs are heavily influenced by some very famous posters but I think that adds to them."

"After the week or so where we as a club seem to have been backed into a corner we need to fully focus and get behind the lads. These images I hope can act as a rallying call to all Blades. UTB!"

(Andrew Clarkson)

(Andrew Clarkson)

(Andrew Clarkson)

(Andrew Clarkson)

(Andrew Clarkson)

Finally, Graphic Designer Richard Hanley's creation, based on the Make Art, Not War poster,  focuses on the style of play that United fans want, with a legend and great advocate of the message at the centre of it.

(Richard Hanley)

Thank you to all three fellow Blades for their efforts, if anyone else wants to contribute then email your Blades Propaganda to the email address at the top of the page.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Dismay, Dispiriting, Disunited

I started to write this post on Friday night. Being called a "rape sympathiser" (I think he meant "rapist sympathiser") by someone who doesn't even follow me on twitter probably riled me more than it should have done. What has followed has been three of the most dispiriting days I have known as a United supporter.

Like a majority of Blades fans I had been following the Ched Evans trial over the previous two weeks. It had proved to be an utterly unedifying experience. Live tweeting from a rape trial seems as seedy as the encounter that led to the case being brought. The live reportage brings with it inherent risks that public judge and jury form verdicts from limited tweets, summations that are made in 140 characters, where mistakes can be made which lead to social media outrage.

The previous week Sky reporter Mike McCarthy tweeted that a hotel receptionist had heard "screaming" coming from the room. He subsequently corrected himself in a later tweet where he emphasised that the correct word used was "squealing". I then found myself tweeting:

“"Squealing" and "Screaming" massively different connotations depending on which word is used”

I then got a reply from a Rotherham supporting friend saying:

"Tweets you never thought you would send.”

He was right, I read it back, I didn’t like it and I hoped I would never find myself doing it again. I didn't tweet anything else about the case after that. I read the tweets, the news reports, the forum threads where amateur QCs and fans who worked in the legal profession interpreted the reporting coming out of court, but I tried not to express any personal judgement on the protagonists. That was not my job after all and my opinion of it counted for nothing.

My view from the start was that someone is innocent until proven guilty and that would remain the case until the British justice system dealt with it in due course. Everyone has a right to a fair hearing. In suspending him United could have been seen to be forming judgement on him. By playing him, it only becomes an issue for some when a guilty verdict is reached. A no win situation.

On Friday afternoon, following the verdict, I tweeted that:

“He (Evans) has been stupid, irresponsible and thrown away a good part of his career. I said I would go by whatever verdict and I stand by it.”

“As a club we move on. We played him until a court of the land tried him. We now go forward without him.”

Nothing controversial you would think but following that tweet I was accused of being “a rape sympathiser”, having no morals and that “I weren't bothered when he was scoring goals". Conveniently forgetting that when the case was brought Evans was out of the side injured and had contributed little in his previous seasons at Bramall Lane. Not that this should be part of my thinking when forming a judgement on someone. I was accused of taking part in the twisted chants that some Blades fans started; “He shags who he wants...” yet I never did. As a father, as a man with a decent level of morals - despite what my new twitter friend had thought, it wasn’t right. It was, on the contrary,  indescribably wrong.

I’ve been given stick on twitter before; it’s par for the course. I can take the swearing and most of the name calling, but I took that kind of comment to heart. To clear my head, I paid a visit to Handsworth FC, the club from the Sheffield suburb where I grew up.  Needing a point for promotion from the Northern Counties East League Division One, in just their second season, the cold air, a pint of Stones and a great pie and a competitive game of football cleared the fuzz in my head.  Handsworth lost to third place Glasshoughton thanks to a late goal. Little did I know but that would be the first of two times that weekend I would see a team lose to ten men.

Despite the result, I returned home positive. It was a football experience so alien to the machinations of earlier in the day. It was cold outside, but an experience that warmed the heart. There was pride, passion, pint and a pie, but sadly no promotion and plenty of change from a tenner.

Then, as they do, things deteriorated further over the weekend. A tremendous Blades following of over 6,000 fans boded well for an enjoyable Saturday afternoon at Stadium:MK. All we had to do was make the vociferous noise to match the numbers and back the team. Sadly the atmosphere was extremely flat, subdued and with antagonistic elements. Unsurprisingly, in the circumstances, there was a lethargy and flatness amongst the players as well. Whilst the team struggled on the pitch, pockets of fans tried to start Ched Evans songs - but with little support from the vast majority they thankfully petered out at source. Arguments and contretemps broke out amongst the Blades support during the game. It was an uneasy and uninspiring atmosphere, alongside an insipid display on the pitch.

Once back home a visit to twitter demonstrated a developing moral vacuum. The delight taken in the guilty verdict from fans of other clubs, largely elements of the Wednesday support, was sickening. In revelling in a man's guilt for no other reason than the football club he played for, they take twisted pleasure from a woman's suffering. On the other side of the divide, those who support Evans tweet and post about #justiceforched, talk in denigrating terms about the victim, off the back of a limited number of tweets emanating from North Wales with no clear evidence to support their veracity. It is one big, horrific mess and while football tribes battle for the moral low ground on various social media platforms, the real victims, those who are actually suffering; the girl, her family, the players' families are all ignored.

It continued today, when I recoiled from my computer screen in horror as a moderator on one Blades internet forum suggested a fellow supporter's proposal for applause for Evans on nine minutes (based on his squad number) on Saturday. Football fans across the country mocked Liverpool's public support for a racist, and here are our supporters suggesting we show support for a convicted rapist, because, whatever you think of the validity of his conviction, that is what he is until an appeal says otherwise. Thankfully the more sensible majority shouted down the idea further down the thread.

Whether you like it or not, our legal system works on a jury made up of twelve everyday people like you and me. Based on the evidence put before them they found Evans guilty; unanimously. They sat in the courtroom, they saw the nuances of verbal responses, the manner of the defendants, the reactions to questions and witnesses. Those who read reports and form their opinions do so without that benefit. The jury may have got it wrong, they are human, but no one can say that with any certainty.

It is for Ched Evans’ legal team to do what they see best on his behalf. It is of little consequence to us now and the increasing irrationality of comment on the matter will not be helping his case. To all of you saying that you know it is not about United or football, but you feel that an innocent man has been found guilty, I ask you this. Would you still be this passionate about the perceived miscarriage of justice if it had been McDonald found guilty and Evans innocent? Would you be liking Facebook pages and tweeting messages of support for him? If you are honest with yourself, you will admit the answer is no.

This case isn't anything to do with Sheffield United. It is nothing to do with football. It is about a sexual assault.

The only lessons that can be applied to football is for young and handsomely paid footballers think twice about the positions their ability and riches put them in and the situations they choose to engage in. The other more general implications can be applied to every young person - male or female - who heads out for a night of booze and a good time every Friday and Saturday night. This case would pass through the courts largely unnoticed but for the football connection, yet that connection is all it has taken for football tribalism to take effect; and some of the very worst aspects of it at that.

Those in charge at Sheffield United FC have dealt with the matter very well. At the minute you cannot say this reflects badly on the club, but now we have the danger of a negative media frenzy thanks to the actions of a vocal minority. As we hit the most important stage of the season, with our destiny in our own hands, the wheels are in danger of coming off. The playing staff have clearly been affected and Danny Wilson and Frank Barlow have a big task re-focusing their minds for Saturday. Whichever way you look at it, a friend and colleague of the team is now in prison. It will affect them as a group and as individuals. However, as fans we are not personally touched by this, yet so many seem keen to inject themselves into it when it isn’t necessary.

Therefore, for the next two weeks, can we please focus on what is important. That is United securing the points required to ensure we achieve what a majority fans would never believe was achievable at the start of the season, automatic promotion We started the season a divided club following the appointment of Wilson, we now end the season a potentially divided club thanks to the off pitch actions of one of our players.

The Sky cameras will be focused even more firmly on United and the supporters on Saturday. A spotlight intensified by the ferocity of comments from some of our support alongside the reported tweets of current and former players. Please don't let yourselves down. Please don't let the club down.

The focus on Saturday should be on the players, Danny Wilson and our club; nothing else. We are Sheffield U-N-I-T-E-D, although at times over the last 3 days, we have felt anything but. Let’s stand together this Saturday evening - we owe it to ourselves.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Competition to win Five United Views

Today A United View on Football reached 50,000 page views. I am dead chuffed. When I started this blog I didn't quite know what might happen, where it would lead and when it would end. I was delighted when it reached one year old in August and I am just as pleased now.

To celebrate so many people reading my blatherings I have a little competition. Without any ads or sponsors the prize is of my own making and providing, but it fits quite nicely with the blog name.

There are three sets of high quality art cards to win. Each set of 5 cards depicting "A United View" and are pictures I have taken. Apologies to those non-Blades supporting readers/supporters of the blog, hopefully it will not deter you from entering. The pictures used are below and the question can be answered by reading a post on the blog. 

QUESTION: In the post One Word Season: Anatomy of a Relegation what was the word most commonly used by Blades fans to describe last season's relegation? (The largest word in the Cloud)

Email answers with your details to by Saturday 7th April.

Good Luck!