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Head To Head

It was perhaps the most important media clash of the week, two giants face to face slugging it out live - no, not Obama vs. McCain - Laws vs. Blackwell on Football Heaven.

An hour is a long time during a radio interview and at times it dragged (and I listened to it more than once!). Fans congratulations and best wishes came and went and some of the same old platitudes were trotted out again and again but there were some original highlights plus one or two comments that plumbed the depths.

At least, this time around, the two managers agreed to agree that a Sheffield derby match IS something special - as we all know, Blackwell's predecessor made what turned out to be a fatal error of judgement by playing down the match ahead of the same fixture last year, the Blades suffering the consequences of a scarf-waving tub-thumping Brian Laws gaining the upper hand both pre-match and on the big day itself.

There were positive comments also from both about the quality of football in last year's return fixture at the Lane, not just passion, but no small measure of exciting play from both teams (the quality of football at Hillsborough last time out was, of course, only evident in one team).

On the whole, Blackwell was the more vocal.. interjecting from the word go, no less, but he calmed down the 14 year old schoolboy enthusiasm fairly quickly, and the session began to run a little more smoothly.

Details on the squads for the weekend were thin on the ground, both gaffers not giving anything away. Jeffers isn't injured, Morgan is OK, so is Henderson (I'm assuming this wasn't misinformation) but attempts to draw clues to the starting lineups of both teams were flat-batted straight back. More facts: Laws does have a loan budget which was initially for January, but may have to be used now. The Blades Super Draw funds the academy. All good interesting stuff.

But dear oh dear.. please God, the 'biggest club in Sheffield' argument pops up again. The blue side is on it's way down, the red is on the way up, we've won more than you, we've got bigger crowds.. enough already! Is anyone else heartily fed up to the back teeth of this one? It might add to the atmosphere, but I can well do without it. Stop it.

When Blackwell put aside the cheeky chappie 'I'm from Luton, me' persona (which wasn't often enough - ee's a card, inneee, old Kev?), the two managers perhaps unsurprisingly said basically the same things.. everyone wants to play, keen, no trouble getting them up for it, increase in tempo in training, injuries forgotten, the international break can be a problem. Read the comments without attribution and you'd have had no idea which manager was speaking, except on a few notable occasions..

A caller suggested it might be easier for Brian Laws since he does have restricted budget and a small squad to get a team together, since he doesn't have many options and can concentrate on getting the best out of what he has with no distractions. Blackwell played it up initially, but peace and love broke out all over when he acknowledged he'd been in the situation before (yes Kevin, we know all about Luton and Leeds and look where they are now) and Laws was doing a good job and the fans don't take it into account (wishful thinking that Blades fans will think the same of him when they're down the pan in future? Maybe!).

Laws admitted to admiration for Blackwell - good banter, they get on well, he sends me a Christmas card, Blackwell coming back with 'If I see that scarf on Saturday I'll throttle you with it'. That's better, let's not get the love-in get too out of hand, fellas.

Asked what they will say to their lads before the big game, the two protagonist's answers were chalk and cheese, perhaps revealing their character more than any other comment on the show.

KB: 'I'll just say... be gentle!' - lots of chortling, yeah right, of course I will, ooh I'm a cheeky chappie.

BL: 'I won't need to say anything.'. THE one and only correct answer.

Which legend would they bring back into the team? Laws wouldn't, his team is sorted. When pressed for an answer, Blackwell opted for Tony Currie. Which player from the opposition would you have? Blackwell wouldn't have any Owls - Laws would take Beattie, and then not play him. Nice one.

Then Blackwell resorts to a more unsavoury turn of phrase with his 'When you cut an Owl, he bleeds red' and 'Is that child abuse, taking his daughter to the Owls game?'.. by now I'm just wanting the Warnock Wannabee to stop making 'jokes'. You lost a few points in my estimation there, Kevin, it's a football show, let's move on.

And move on they did, fortunately, rounding off the show with a series of well appreciated comments - the game is set up nicely, let's make em proud.. Sunday comes and we can show them what Sheffield is about.. it's important to understand what the derby is about. Both managers buy into it and they enjoy where they are working.. 'we embrace these situations'.. the enthusiasm in the town does spread out on to the pitch and it IS the biggest game of the season.

Amen to that. Bring it on.

NB: Tuesday's Football Heaven is still available from BBC Sport in case you missed it.




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The Journalist

Writer: Auckland Owl Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday October 17 2008

Time: 8:00AM

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