Jose Baxter is convinced Sheffield United can challenge for the League One title, despite warning his team mates they will be marked men next term, writes James Shield.
But the midfielder insisted actions must speak louder than words when Nigel Clough’s squad begin their latest promotion push with a home fixture against Bristol City on August 9.
United won 65 per cent of their remaining 23 games last season and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup after experiencing a dramatic upturn in fortunes following Clough’s appointment nine months ago.
Highlighting that strong finish, combined with an influx of new players, Baxter told The Star: “I’ve never felt so confident about what the future might hold. The manager is bringing in good players and the standard of football in training has been something else. There’s a real buzz about the place.
“The group mentality here now is really together and that can only be a good thing because we know we’ve got some tough challenges ahead.”
“Teams will be wary of us now because they know how good we are and how good we can be,” Baxter added. “We showed in the cup that we can compete with the best.
“Psychologically, everyone is strong. Our aim is to reach the Championship but the reality is that we are in the division we are in and so, rather than just talking about it, we’ve got to go out there and do it as well.”
United, who continued their preparations for the 2014/15 campaign with a gruelling work-out in Graves Park earlier this week, have bolstered the options at Clough’s disposal by signing the likes of James Wallace and Chris Basham from Tranmere Rovers and Blackpool respectively.
Marc McNulty, the former Livingston centre-forward, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Ben Davies are among those to also arrive in South Yorkshire ahead of the meeting with Steve Cotterill’s side.
Harrison McGahey will shortly join Basham at Bramall Lane after electing to leave Bloomfield Road while Barnsley’s Chris O’Grady is a confirmed target.
“You can tell the new lads are loving it,” Baxter said. “They’ve really fitted in well and bought into what the manager wants to do which doesn’t surprise me because he’s so big on getting things right behind the scenes.
“He (Clough) is an honest man, he tells you straight and exactly how it is which is all you can ever ask for as a footballer. That way, everyone knows what they’ve got to, what he expects and exactly where they stand.”
“The core here is strong and there’s competition for places,” Baxter added. “Everyone has been working really hard in training and none of us can wait for the matches to get started.
“It’s always good when the mood is like that.”