How Gabriel Paletta Relegated Sheffield United In 2007

Neil Warnock has never got over it. Liverpool went to Fulham and named a second-string side in 2007, including an Argentinian centre-half that went on to play for Italy. Here's the story of how that centre-half relegated Warnock's Sheffield United.

Joel Sanderson-Murray

Gabriel Paletta.

That might be a name that’s not familiar with every football supporter, although it’s a name that no doubt spun round the head of Neil Warnock in the year of 2007.

Quite possibly the head of Roy Hodgson when he was England manager as well, who found Paletta to be a tough nut to crack in the Italy backline (below) during the 2-1 defeat to the Italians at the 2014 World Cup.

But he would have kept Warnock up at night.

Paletta and Emiliano Insua as the two girls from The Shining except instead of bicycles they had hold of great technical ability but incredibly suspect in a high defensive line.

Why does Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock ring the now 33-year-old former Liverpool and AC Milan centre-half up every night shouting “I COULD HAVE KEPT THEM UP IF IT WASN’T FOR YOU!”?

Well, to find out that we have to go back to May 2007.


Liverpool are preparing for another Champions League final after a dramatic penalty shootout win over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the semi-final.

A final they would go on to lose 2-1 to AC Milan in Athens thanks to a double from Pippo Inzaghi, but it’s okay because number six would come 11 years later.

Rafael Benitez, Liverpool’s manager at the time, goes away to Fulham four days after the victory over Chelsea with a place in the top four and ultimately, next year’s Champions League already confirmed.

The clash with AC Milan is looming in just 18 days and with that in mind Benitez rings the changes for the trip to Craven Cottage.

Nine changes from the team that overcame Chelsea, with only goalkeeper Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso surviving from that team.

There are rare starts for Chilean winger Mark Gonzalez, who proved really poor deliveries from the left wing come to those who wait, and club legend Robbie Fowler who is in his second spell at the club.

But there are two names in the back four which attract the most attention, and they are those of Gabriel Paletta and Argentine youngster Emiliano Insua.

Paletta had been at Anfield since February 2006, joining from Argentine side Banfield having made a sterling impression at the FIFA U20 World Cup turning out for Argentina, at the time.

His league debut came in a 4-0 away win against Wigan Athletic in December 2006 but would then go on to make only two more league appearances for the club, one of them being that day at Fulham.


Fulham have been in dire form, truly dire form.

Without a win since February, against Newcastle, which stretches to a 11-match winless run before the fixture against Liverpool.

Lawrie Sanchez has replaced Chris Coleman but has failed to arrest the slide and relegation to the Championship is looming.

But then there’s Sheffield United, managed by proud Yorkshire man Neil Warnock, who despite recently picking up seven points from their last four games are bang in trouble going into this weekend, the penultimate weekend of the season.

A comprehensive 3-0 defeat away to Aston Villa hands the initiative to Sanchez’s Fulham, where a win over Liverpool would place safety in the Cottager’s hands going into the final day.

Clint Dempsey’s 69thminute winner sparks euphoria at Craven Cottage as Fulham have safety in their grasp while over at Bramall Lane, Warnock’s head is about to burst.

That 1-0 win led to Fulham ending up finishing one point above United after both sides lost their final game, meaning Warnock’s debut season in the Premier League with his boyhood club.

Warnock couldn’t get past the side that Benitez opted to stick out at Fulham and laid the blame for his dream ending in a nightmare firmly at the Spaniard’s door.

Speaking at the time, he said: “I didn’t even know two of those that played for Liverpool at Fulham last week.

“I’d never heard of them but when you are a foreign manager like Rafa Benitez, you probably don’t give two hoots about what Sheffield United think.”

The Cardiff City manager still remained bitter about the episode in 2011, speaking to the London Evening Standard he stated:

“I will never forget Liverpool. The team Benitez put out four years ago was a disgrace and you can’t ever forget anything like that.”

There we have it, Liverpool were responsible for the relegation of Sheffield United the last time they resided in the Premier League.

A 38-game season that relied solely on the final two games, and more importantly one not involving The Blades at Craven Cottage.

Back to the present day and Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United look a lot more capable of staying in the Premier League beyond their maiden season following promotion.

United, sitting in 10thafter two wins from their opening six games have taken to the top division like a duck to water. Incredible victories at Chelsea and Everton suggest they have the mettle to stay up.

Saturday lunchtime represents a whole new opportunity with the visit of league leaders Liverpool.

Avoid defeat there and there may be no need for any final day dramatics for United.


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