The Heart of English Football: Sheffield’s Roller-Coaster Journey
Combined, the city of Sheffield has four First Division titles to its name. Sheffield United won their first championship in 1897-98, while their local rivals, Sheffield Wednesday, won four league honours between 1902 and 1930. Yet, for all of their success, this period doesn’t define Sheffield’s status in the world of football. As United and Wednesday are both playing in the country’s top two divisions, people assume that they kick-started the city’s on-pitch development.
However, that’s not the case. Ten years before Wednesday came to fruition in 1867, Sheffield F.C. was founded. To date, the club is 163 years old, making them 29 years older than United, who are known as the Blades. So, for over one-and-a-half centuries, Sheffield has been at the heart of English football. Let’s look at the city’s footballing rise to prominence.
The Home to the World’s First Football Team
Sheffield FC aren’t only Sheffield’s most senior club, they’re also the world’s oldest football team. According to SportMob, the Club, as they are nicknamed, was established because of Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest. The pair were members of the Sheffield Cricket Club, and they created the first set of rules. Over the years, the 163-year-old team have played at a number of grounds, starting at Strawberry Hall Lane Park. The Club also played several games at Bramall Lane between 1873 and 1884, before the Blades moved into the 32,000-seater ground in 1889.
It’s impossible to dispute that Sheffield FC weren’t the pioneers behind football’s emergence and growth in the United Kingdom. Although the sport has since outgrown them somewhat, the historic team opened the door to new possibilities. At the time of their creation, there were no unified rules or Football Association. This was because the FA wasn’t established until 1863. In kick-starting football’s journey in England, Sheffield FC played an instrumental role in the FA’s formation, as per the team’s website. Not only that, but they also helped to create cup competitions, such as the FA Cup, in which they reached the quarter-finals on three occasions.
Sheffield United and Wednesday Have Taken on the Baton
While Sheffield FC continues to operate within the modern era of football, they now play out of Derbyshire and compete in the Northern Premier League Division One South East. It’s fair to say that their rise doesn’t compare to United’s and Wednesday’s, but that shouldn’t take anything away from their contributions to the sport.
At the end of the 2018-19 Championship season, Sheffield United secured their promotion to the Premier League. The Blades returned to the top-flight after a 12-year absence and shocked football fans as they stormed to a ninth-place finish in the 2019-20 campaign. Sheffield Wednesday, meanwhile, suffered relegation from the Premier League in 1999-2000 and are yet to return to the division. Over the years, the Owls have had some star-studded names feature for them, including David Hirst and Mark Bright, who fired them into the UEFA Cup for the 1992-93 season.
Having secured their status as Football League sides with Premier League potential, many of the best UK bookmakers now host markets related to Sheffield United and Wednesday. Nowadays, football is one of the leading sports in the betting industry, and platforms like Betfred, Betway, and 888sport offer prospective players free bets to use across various leagues, including the Championship and Premier League. Bettors can also explore outright markets, such as Sheffield Wednesday’s chances of avoiding relegation from the Championship in 2020-21. Although, at the time of writing, it hasn’t been the best year for Sheffield’s football teams.
Sheffield United are currently rock bottom of the Premier League and 18 points from safety, while the Owls are currently 23rd in the Championship. But, irrespective of whether both sides drop down a division, it won’t impact the city’s legendary footballing status. Going through the divisions is often part and parcel of the sport for many teams, and it’s no different for those in Sheffield. Over the years, the Blades and the Owls have battled their way to the Premier League, only to suffer relegation. Despite that, whatever division they end up in, their success and failures will forever be part of English football history because of their 19th-century influences on the sport.
Sheffield Epitomises Everything That’s Good About Modern Football
Sheffield has long had a proud culture of hard work and honesty, and their football teams are no different. Sheffield FC, United, and Wednesday don’t share Liverpool’s or Manchester United’s trophy-winning history, but they don’t have the same financial power as the European heavyweights. That said, money shouldn’t define football. The sport is a game made by the people, for the people, and that’s evident within Sheffield’s oldest clubs. While it’s been a roller-coaster journey, Sheffield is the heart and soul of English football, and that will never change.