Kevin Gage played over 100 times for Sheffield United and, in his exclusive column for The Star, discusses the start made by ex-Blades teammate Chris Wilder at Bramall Lane.
Five days, it’s taken. Not even a week has gone of the new season, only two games have been played, and yet some of the more impatient Blades fans have already made their judgements.
“Same old Sheff United," they say. "Here we go again. Blah blah blah," on the back of two defeats in our opening two matches. Not ideal or great results, of course, and the manager Chris Wilder will be the first to admit that he’s in the results business. But sometimes, especially early in the season, performances are equally as important as winning. And here’s why...
Let's cast our minds back to this time last season. New manager, fans full of optimism, full of belief even, that this was our year to finally get out of League One! A 4-0 opening day drubbing at Gillingham soon brought us back down to reality. An awful performance. Things could only get better surely? They did... a bit.
The team rallied somewhat and a decent win at home to Chesterfield saw us on a run of five successive victories, though without ever playing very well or looking very convincing, eventually culminating in two dire home performances and defeats by Bury and Colchester, which very much set the tone for the rest of the season.
Fast forward, then, to the present. Now no-one is suggesting we are world-beaters, or are going to set League One alight (yet), or indeed are anywhere near the finished article. But if a team is judged on performances then Chris Wilder will be pleased with what he’s seen so far. I certainly am. Tony Currie also was on Tuesday night. Keith Edwards, the often highly-critical (with good reason last season!) voice of Radio Sheffield, was very impressed with the display at Bolton, especially the first half.
The knowledgeable fans, along with us ex-pros, can see a team transformed from the stale, sterile, safety-first, sideways stuff served to us on the pitch as we suffered last season. Wilder’s team don’t do any of that. They play with a positivity and a purpose. They play with pride and passion. They go forward first, not back or sideways. They play “on the front foot” as he describes it. They take the game to the opposition. And, more often than not in his managerial career, they win.
We had enough chances in the two games we’ve played to win five games. With better quality finishing & crossing we’d have scored a hatful. Leon Clarke should have four goals to his name already instead of just one. But over a season, these things average out and you get the rewards in wins and points that your performances deserve.
The Blades will evolve as a team, add some more quality and will also certainly improve as the season goes, but the early signs are there that we are going to have a Blades team to be proud of once again, one that will be all-action and giving it real go, every minute of every game.
I can’t wait... Bring it on!