NOT so long ago they were being accused of making slow progress.
But having seen them establish a two point cushion at the top of the League One table, Danny Wilson believes his new look squad have now come to terms with the demands of being a Sheffield United player. Comfortable in their own skin.
“When you represent this football club then you are expected to win every game,” Wilson, reflecting on Wednesday’s victory over Scunthorpe, said. “And that brings with it a certain weight and pressure but I think the lads enjoy trying to do that now.
“The fans expect them to win, pretty much come what may, whenever they set foot on the pitch.
“From what I can detect, the boys now feel the same way too.
“They are rising to the challenge of living up to what is asked of them. They are happy to try and do that rather than seeing it as a burden.
“We’re in a good position at the moment but, it goes without saying, there is an awful long way to go yet.”
There is, however, a fine line between confidence and complacency.
Indeed, tomorrow’s game against Hartlepool will represent arguably an even greater test of United’s character than next week’s visit to fourth placed Doncaster.
Cut adrift at the bottom of the table and having won once in the competition this term, it is difficult to make a case for John Hughes’ side returning home with anything to show for their efforts at Bramall Lane.
Nevertheless, the fact they have drawn with both high-flying Brentford and United’s South Yorkshire rivals in recent months demonstrates Hartlepool still remain capable of raising their game.
Hence Wilson’s decision to issue a caveat when praising United’s performance earlier this week.
“I asked them to put pressure on the teams around them by winning matches,” he continued. “And they are doing that. So far.”
“What is happening at Hartlepool isn’t my concern,” Wilson added. “I’m fully focused on us and nobody else.
“But, because of that, I don’t care what anyone thinks looking at the rankings.
“We’ll treat them with respect and take nothing for granted. We can’t afford to do anything else.”
Hartlepool will make the 110 mile journey from the north-east without a victory in their last 22 outings.
United, by contrast, have triumphed 13 times since the visitors dispatched Scunthorpe 2-0 at Victoria Park.
But with Neill Collins, a former Hartlepool loanee, sustaining a nasty facial injury against Brian Laws’ side, Wilson’s preparations have been far from smooth.
Centre-forward Shaun Miller is also expected to miss out with a knee problem and Wilson said: “Obviously seeing those two have to go off was frustrating.
“The fact is though it’s happened and we move on.”
Wilson, who echoed exactly the same sentiment when United failed to reach the Championship last term, proved as good as his word following May’s play-off final defeat by Huddersfield Town.
With nine members of 18 man squad named against Scunthorpe either signed or establishing themselves since, the degree of upheaval United experienced during the first 20 weeks of the season must not be underestimated.
Senior figures, Collins included, have all gone on record of late to predict Wilson’s side will not reach the peak of their powers until the turn of the year.
“We had a great crowd (against Scunthorpe) and when the supporters turn out in such numbers it’s important we send them home happy,” Wilson said. “Hopefully we did that.
“But perhaps the biggest thing I’ll take away from that game with me is how difficult we can be to face when the lads are focused and the crowd are right behind them.
“It turns us into a really strong force when everyone is together like that.”
Teams and ref
Blades (possible): Long, Williams, Hill, Maguire, Westlake, Blackman, Doyle, McDonald, Flynn, Cofie, Kitson.
HARTLEPOOL (possible): Flinders, Collins, Horwood, Hartley, Humphreys, Franks, Monkhouse, Sweeney, Richards, Wyke, Howard.
DARREN DEADMAN (Herts): Deadman is averaging 3.36 cautions per match this term compared to 4.18 at the end of last season. Has sent-off four players in his last 19 outings, including ex-Blade Jordan Stewart in Notts County’s FA Cup defeat by Rotherham.