Boyhood Burnley fan Oliver Norwood says Sheffield United should follow Clarets’ Premier League blueprint

Oliver Norwood
Oliver Norwood
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Ten years ago, Oliver Norwood was delighted to see Burnley leave Sheffield United behind, now he wants the Blades to follow his hometown club’s lead.

Norwood was at Wembley to watch the Clarets beat the Blades in the 2009 Championship play-off final.

When they meet at Bramall Lane in the Premier League tomorrow he will be wearing red-and-white stripes.

There will be no split loyalties for the Burnley-born midfielder, who sees it as “just a job”, but views the club he used to follow as a season ticket holder as a perfect example to the one he now plays for.

“It’s got to be something we look at to try and develop Sheffield United the way Burnley have done,” says the 28-year-old. “You look at the training facilities now, everything’s geared up to being in the Premier League.

“We need to look at how they’ve gone about it and maybe try and replicate a few things but we want to do it our own way as well, which we are doing. It’s important we establish Sheffield United as a Premier League club.”

The promotion Burnley pipped the Blades to in 2009 was fleeting, but Sean Dyche has cemented them in the top flight since 2011. There are plenty of similarities between Dyche and Norwood’s boss Chris Wilder, another English manager with a no-nonsense team.

“They’ve stuck to their beliefs and not changed for the league,” Norwood says of Burnley.

“You listen to how people think football should be played and all that rubbish but it’s about winning football matches, it’s about accumulating points. Burnley play winning football, which is what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s not about being pretty and going home and saying, ‘We got beaten again.’

“This club has honest people who work hard every single day and want to better themselves. I’m sure it’s very similar there.”
Once Saturday is out of the way, Norwood can go back to being a Burnley fan.

“I used to sit at the bottom of the James Hargreaves Stand,” he recalls.

“You could see Turf Moor from my bedroom window. It’s my town and apart from this weekend I want them to do well.

“I was a season ticket holder up to being 16 and then I went in as a scholar at (Manchester) United. We played on Saturday morning as youth team players so obviously it was more difficult to get to games. Every opportunity I get I’ll still go along with my friends to watch the games.

“I was there (for the 2009 play-off final), but we’ll keep that one quiet!

“I remember being there and the buzz of a play-off final. Going to Wembley Stadium, it’s the level you want to play at and it’s your dream as a boy when you’re playing football. I don’t really remember too much about the game, apart from little Wardy (Jamie Ward) getting sent off. I played with him later on for Northern Ireland.

“Wade Elliott smashing that one in to the top corner was a big moment in Burnley Football Club’s history.

“It was good for the town, but it’s all in the past now. We’re both here in the Premier League. I think it’s going to be a decent game.

“It’s weird when you look at things like that. You don’t know where you’re career is going to take you. I probably never thought that I’d play for Sheffield United at that time. It’s funny how things work out.

“I switched it off so I don’t have to deal with all that but all my friends are coming on Saturday, I’ve had to fork out for a box for them all. It will be interesting to see if they get kicked out!

“I’ve played against them a few times before, obviously not in the Premier League, but it’s just one of those games.

“To me it’s just a job at the end of the day. I’m going to work on Saturday.

“I’m not there to make friends and please people, I’m there to do a job for Sheffield United and I want my team to win.”