27 years ago, Kevin Gage was sat in the changing room at Bramall Lane – lacing up his worn boots and donning his red and white strip before the first match of the inaugural Premier League season; a match that saw Sheffield United defeat heavyweights Manchester United 2-1. Fast-forward to the present and the Blades are once again in the coveted top-flight, with the once stalwart defender now cheering on a club that he has a strong affinity with.
So Kevin, as someone who grew up in the south, you now class yourself as an adopted Blade and live in Sheffield. What is it about the club and the city that makes you feel so at home over other clubs you’ve been at?
Obviously living here since 1991 is a major factor as I’m in and around the fans and the people of Sheffield. I think the real attachment to the club was formed after being here a few years and winning the Player of The Year award in 1995, which meant that the fans really appreciated me as a player. I think in my case the bond was strengthened when I was invited back to represent the club on match days as a compère in the function lounges, a role I’ve now been doing for nearly 20 years!
You spent 5 years at Sheffield United and made over a century of appearances, are there any special moments that stand out?
I will always say my first goal for United was extra special as it was against Aston Villa, the club I’d just left! Nothing personal against the club, but I didn’t get on with Ron Atkinson (to say the least) so to score against them in such spectacular fashion was very sweet. The other occasion has to be the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley in 1993; even though the result went the wrong way and we didn’t play well, the whole build-up and day itself was very special.
You’ve been amongst the fans during the success of recent years. What was it like witnessing the Blades’ meteoric rise to the Premier League?
It’s been astonishing to be honest, it’s been a real privilege to be involved with the club during this incredible period. I thought Chris Wilder would do an excellent job for Sheffield United, but I’d be lying if I said I expected to see two promotions in three years! I’ve been fortunate to have spent a bit of time with Chris at media events and it’s been fascinating to chat and listen to him. He is utterly driven to succeed, and we are fortunate to have him as he will go on to be an outstanding Premier League manager in years to come- hopefully with us of course! I’m already on record as saying he’ll be the England boss within the next decade.”
What are your thoughts on United’s start to the season? Have any players stood out for you?
We look like we’ve been playing in the Premier League for years, not weeks! Everyone has shown that they can make the step up in quality and pace. Collectively we look a strong unit, although going forward might be the only issue. Despite spending over £40m on attackers, I wonder at times if we have enough individual ability to create those pieces of ‘magic’ that will win games. We’ll create chances with our team play and our passing movements, but it’s the ‘extras’ on top that will make the difference in finishing mid-table or merely just surviving.
Both wing backs [Enda Stevens and George Baldock] who have been quite superb, together with John Egan who has been quietly and effectively brilliant. Both Bash [Chris Basham] and Jack O’Connell have picked up where they left off last season and I think they’ll get even better as the season progresses.”
What are your predictions for the rest of the season?
I see us being a very good defensive unit and difficult to break down, as the Liverpool game proved. No-one is going to cut us to shreds and spank us! If we continue to progress the way we are as a team, and the forwards find their top form, I can see us being quite comfortable in mid-table. The average points needed to stay up in the Premiership has historically been 38.4, so we’re on track so far!