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07th Feb 2024

In South Yorkshire, we all have a praise or a grumble

Jack Peat

The long-running radio show hit the headlines this week, but it has been sensing the mood of the county for decades

Last week, a seemingly unremarkable tweet posted from the account of the fury red Muppet character, Elmo prompted an outpouring of grief unlike anything the internet has ever seen. 

“Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?”, the post read, spurring a major ‘trauma dump’ as people shared their problems ranging from the latest football results to the economic crisis and even marital problems.

“Not feeling too tickled about life rn, Elmo,” one user contributed to the conversation, while another added: “Not gonna lie … I’m tired, Elmo. A lot’s going on, Little Red”. 

“Elmo I’m gonna be real, I am at my f—ing limit,” a third person added, garnering over half a million likes on the platform for that comment alone. 

The viral mental health check has spotlighted the importance of checking in on people and listening to their concerns, as well as demonstrating how many issues – feeling broke, hopeless or just deflated by the endless drum of bad news – are widely shared. 

Closer to home in South Yorkshire, a platform for sensing people’s well-being has existed for decades and has also hit the headlines of late thanks to one fan’s incoherent rant about Doncaster Rover’s 1-1 draw with fellow relegation rivals Sutton United, in which Joe Ironside’s 97th-minute penalty salvaged a point for the lacklustre away side.

Paul dialled into BBC Sheffield’s Praise or Grumble for a chat and credited one of his mates for heading down to south London – an almost eight-hour round trip – before going on to make some vague rumblings about sacking the chairman and capping the conversation off with, “I’m going to The Sal for a pint”, a popular pub on one of the prettier roads in Doncaster.

As a fellow Rovers fan, I was at the game that day and can safely say that there was little, if anything, to praise about the performance. But I felt a little more upbeat having listened to Paul on Radio Sheffield, knowing I wasn’t the only one drowning my sorrows over a pint and pondering existential questions about my club’s future.

It’s the sort of support I have leaned on ever since I sat in the passenger seat of my dad’s car outside Belle View with the heaters blasting warm air at our feet following freezing afternoons on the terrace.  

James Alexander Gordon would finish reading the results, then the Pools, then on would go Praise and Grumble, or as most people now call it, ‘Moan and Groan’, owing to the general lack of positive sporting news in this part of the world. 

“We’ve got Gary from Bawtry who’s been to Doncaster vs Rotherham, is it a praise or grumble Gary?” 

“It’s a grumble, Andy. We were woeful. What was he thinking putting [insert debutant midfielder] on so early? 

“He was running round like ‘edless chicken!”

Bob Jackson, who is widely credited for inventing the football phone-in, termed the show just ‘Grumble’ when it made it onto the airwaves in 1986, and only added the ‘praise’ bit when a Sheffield Wednesday fan called to eulogise a 5-0 Owls victory that day. 

These days, Sheff United sit rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, Wednesday and Rotherham occupy the bottom spots of the Championship and Rovers are dangerously close to falling out of the league altogether, and it has been a while since any form of praise has been heard on the wireless. 

But as the scruffy red puppet from the Muppets has just found out, shit as things may be, at least we’re not suffering alone. There’s still the dulcet tones of Gary who wants to sack the manager, sack the board, sack the caterers and sack the guy who charges for parking outside the East Stand.

And that, at least, is one reason to be cheerful.