Former Latics stopper and current goalkeeping coach discusses one of the most monumental days in our history as we meet Sheffield United for the first time since ‘The Battle of Bramall Lane’.
- “I go cold talking about it,” Pollitt says.
- Goalkeeper feels FA Cup success and UEFA Europa League may not have been possible had it not been for Bramall Lane survival.
- Coach expecting tough test from the Blades on Boxing Day.
The goalkeeper, who was in just his second season at the club, was between the sticks as Paul Jewell’s Latics won 2-1 at Sheffield United in May 2007 to secure their Premier League status at the expense of their hosts, who dropped to the second tier in controversial circumstances on the final day of the campaign.
Looking back on the match itself, Pollitt said:
“I remember the weather! The ball was like a bar of soap and you didn’t want to be the person making a mistake, especially as a goalkeeper.
“We took the lead through Paul Scharner and we were doing alright and that settled us down a little bit.
“Sheffield United then equalised when I came out for a cross, it was Jon Stead who scored but in the process we collided heads and were both down for a short while afterwards. Ryan Taylor was in the mix too and he broke his leg that day! I have had a couple of collisions with Ryan over the years and I was thinking ‘Not you again?’
Mike Pollitt down receiving treatment after colliding with Jon Stead for the Blades’ equaliser at Bramall Lane.
“At 1-1 the game was in the balance but when you are playing you don’t realise how tense it is,” he continued. “For people on the side it is worse, I only realised when we did it a few years down the line at Stoke.
“At the end of the first-half, Unsy [David Unsworth] tucked the penalty away and from then on they just attacked us for the rest of the game. Danny Webber hit the post, it trickled back along the line and we just managed to clear it. Emile Heskey came into defence when we were down to ten after Lee McCulloch had been sent off, and he was just a colossus at the back. Balls were flying across the six-yard line, they were going wide, I touched one onto the bar and it was just heart in the mouth stuff as the game went on.”
In typical Pollitt fashion, though, he remembers the celebrations just as well!
“I am going cold now when we mention it,” Pollitt added. “I remember just turning round at the final whistle and running towards the Latics fans and it was one of them moments where nobody knew what to do. We had players running all over the pitch, staff were running everywhere and we were all hugging each other.
“There were crazy celebrations afterwards and it went well on into the night – we got dropped off on the team bus on King Street, if I remember correctly, and the fans were out in full force.”
Pollitt sprinting for his first celebratory drink on King Street!
The now 43-year-old probably didn’t realise it at the time, but now he certainly understands the significance of that day in the club’s history.
“If we had of gone down into the Championship, the group would have been split up and we have seen what has happened in the last couple of years when that happens so those special occasions we have had like winning the FA Cup and playing in the Europa League may never have happened,” he explained.
“The history we have now may not have existed had it not been for that day in Sheffield.
Fast-forward eight-and-a-half years and Latics and Sheffield United meet again, though this time in Sky Bet League One with both chasing promotion at the halfway stage of the campaign.
Pollitt says he is relatively content with the club’s current position in the league table and he is expecting a tough test from the Blades on Boxing Day.
“We would all like to be a bit higher than we are but it is difficult when we have had the turnover of players that we have had,” he said. “We are starting to get towards a settled squad now and the manager is well into his first season so we are satisfied, especially with this being a difficult league where we seem to be every team’s scalp.
“If we have a good Christmas and New Year period, then we will get into the second-half of the season in good fettle and, with the squad we have, I think we can have a really good charge for it in the second half of the season.
“We have been watching Sheffield United and we know that they are well-drilled and organised now.
“Nigel Adkins is an experienced manager and you only have to look at what he has done at Scunthorpe United, Southampton and Reading to see that.
“They’ve got some good experienced players in their team and it will be a tough test.”