It remains one of only two grounds in the world to have hosted an England football game, an Ashes cricket Test and an FA Cup final.
In more recent times, Brian Deane scored the first goal of the Premier League era there; ‘The Battle of Bramall Lane’, a game against West Brom in 2002 which was abandoned after Sheffield United were reduced to six men, has grown so infamous that it now has its own page on Wikipedia.
Names to have graced the turf read like a who’s who of modern day football; Fabregas. Ronaldo. Giggs. Lampard. Bendtner.
Imagine following in those footsteps, right? Er, yeah. On October 4, you see, I’ll do exactly that in a Blades v Owls charity game at Bramall Lane; raising funds for Sheffield charity Brathay Trust.
I’ll do so with home advantage behind me, too, having been placed on the United side and assigned the No.4 shirt.
I’d like to imagine my performance as more John Brayford than Bobby Ford, but I don’t think I’ll hold my breath.
The basic premise is simple; two squads of 16 players, who have each raised a minimum of £1,000 for the honour of pulling on their team’s shirt. Chris Morgan, who captained United to, and in, the Premier League, will marshall the home defence; Wednesday, managed by Terry Curran, hope to confirm a similarly-legendary promotion-winning skipper in the coming weeks.
Tony Currie, recently voted United’s greatest ever player, knows a thing or two about football. He’s the Blades boss for the day. Howard Webb, who refereed the World Cup final and Champions League final in the same year, will be in charge of proceedings. Exalted company to say the least!
But this is about much more than a group of grown men living out childhood dreams by vying for derby-day glory. The real winners will be Brathay, who are committed to making a difference to the lives of young people.
Established over seven decades ago, their work began in Sheffield only recently but have made huge strides in areas including food and exercise, smoking and alcohol and sexual behaviour.
But mental health is a growing concern and, according to the charity, around 7,000 young people in Sheffield suffered. To put that into context, 23,000 attended Wednesday and United’s first home games this season. If you were there, roughly imagine one in every three people you see, being affected.
“A growing number of young people are struggling to cope with the stresses of everyday life,” a Brathay spokesperson said, “such as exams and family relationships through to major issues such as sexual exploitation, domestic violence and bereavement.
“Often this leads to self-harm, eating disorders, substance misuse and other severely risky behaviour.”
So, in just over six weeks, I will experience football from the other side; looking up at the Press box, rather than down from it. Unsurprisingly, as someone who watches football for a living in the company of free pies and biscuits, the chances of lasting nine minutes, let alone 90, are slim. But for such a good cause, every ache, strain and hamstring twinge will be well worth it.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to put yourself in the players’ shoes, or pull on a blue-and-white shirt and take on the old enemy, or just do your bit for a worthwhile local charity on Bramall Lane’s new DESSO surface? Well, here’s your chance.
For a minimum pledge of just £50, young fans (aged 11-13) can take part in their own game before the main event.