Paul Heaton first rose to fame as singer with the Housemartins, scoring hits with songs such as 'Happy Hour' and 'Caravan of Love' and winning an army of fans with their high energy gigs. After their split in 1988 Paul formed the Beautiful South and enjoyed massive success with their blend of intelligent lyrics and soulful pop. Now recording solo material Paul remains a national treasure but is very proud of his Sheffield roots and the Sheffield United team he has supported since schooldays.

A Blade from a young age, Paul explained to why he adopted the red half of the city: "We moved to Sheffield when I was four-years-old. My dad was a decent footballer and played for Liverpool's A team, Everton's reserves and Tranmere Rovers, so football was always there for us growing up and with my older brothers we were always playing the game.

"Then my dad took us to Hillsborough to watch Wednesday in the old First Division at a time when United were a division below. Both my brothers fell for it and became Wednesday fans but not me.

"I asked him to take me to Sheffield United as well and in 1969 they played Aston Villa and won 5-0. I sat on my dad's knee and although it was a big win and a great atmosphere I think it was more the fact that it was just him and me there and I got to spend time with him. I was given a red and white rattle, a scarf and a hat. The hat got chewed by an Alsatian some years later but I've still got the scarf and that was me set for life.

"It's not been easy but I think being a United fan teaches you a lot. At times it can be horrendous but you learn when and where to keep your mouth shut and head down and don't try and influence others to support your team!"

Paul moved away from Sheffield in his teens but despite ending up miles from Bramall Lane and his heroes it didn't diminish his love for the Blades.

"My support actually hardened when we moved down south when I was 13. It was part of me by then and perhaps northerness became more of an issue when we moved to Surrey. Where we lived was Crystal Palace and Millwall territory, with a few Chelsea fans. The first day we went to our new schools I remember me and my brother Adie wearing our Sheffield scarves proudly. Mine was red and white, his blue and white. I met him at lunch time and said, 'They all think I'm an Arsenal fan' and he said, 'You've got it lightly they think I'm Chelsea.' No-one had heard of Sheffield United or Wednesday but that just made me more proud to support my team."

Albums like 'Hull 4-London 0' and regular appearances on Football Italia hint at Paul's love of the game but has he ever written a song directly about football?

"That's a hard question to answer without it sounding like a plug but I have an album out in July called 'Seven Deadly Sins" and I've written about Superbia which is pride. I tried to capture three minutes in a football ground as a backdrop and put the song in a football setting. It's about false pride and although there have been football references in titles before it's the first time I've used an angle like that."

Always prepared to speak out and stand up for what he believes, Paul has his sights set firmly on what's right and wrong in modern football.

"I think that's my politics rather than me becoming more critical as I get older. People moan about the huge wages and there is a simple solution: tax them more highly. Russians, Uruguayans and any nation's footballers; great entertainers but tax them more and let other people benefit."

Always one for bright ideas and innovations, Paul has plenty of ideas on how to improve football, starting with a couple of simple rule changes...

"I have tried my hand at being a ref and it's impossible to control the holding and shoving that goes on inside the six-yard box at corners so I have a new rule they should introduce to stop it. If the ref sees that going on he should be able to take them to one side and get those player to go and stand outside the area until the corner is over and done with.

"That's a simple solution but I have loads more. There's no need for all that goal-line technology they have been talking about. Much easier to just put sand behind the goal line. I suspect their call for technology is more to do with ratings than football..."

Once that soaring voice begins to falter Paul may well have a future in football administration, but for now he is enjoying watching matches with his three daughters.

"I'm not a season ticket holder any more. I live in Manchester and have maybe got across for seven or eight home games this season but I have kids of my own and maybe it's gone full circle a bit because I can see it from my dad's point of view nowadays.

"I like taking my daughters to football these days, whether it's Stockport, Manchester United or hopefully at Bramall Lane. It's a chance to spend time with the kids on a day out and hopefully they will grow up loving the game like I still do."

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