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Eleven Portraits of Football in Sheffield

“The first day of the season, down to Gillingham, a sunny day. We lost 4-0.” It’s now April and Mark is stoically reflecting on another lacklustre season for the Blades.

A United fan all his life, his first game was in 1992, a 1-1 draw with Arsenal watched with his Dad and Grandad. Although he remembers the game itself fondly, Mark seems more interested in the experience: he tells us that he was fascinated by the ground, particularly the old John Street stand, and about how he got sucked into the strange pleasures of people watching.

Nowadays, a typical match day starts with lunch with his mum and dad, then the pub with his mates, then to the Lane, and a few more afterwards. “When you’re a kid”, Mark tell us, “your focus is entirely on the game and the result. Then in your 30s you become a bit more philosophical: yes, you still want the win, but you want a drink with your mates afterwards”.

Friendship is pretty important to Mark but it’s not just about the mates he goes to the game with. “There’s something reassuring in seeing the same faces every week. There’s blokes I’ve been saying hello to for ten years, we’ve shared in-depth conversations, but you’ve gone past the point where you can ask each other’s name!”

Mark’s love of the game is obvious, but his passion stretches beyond the pitch, it’s about “going to places you’ve never been, the obsession with ticking them off”. His dream is that one year United will make it to Europe. “That would be brilliant; the hope of the draw.”

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