Kevin Gage's Blades Column: Chris Wilder's United showed they're made of true Sheffield steel in Swindon win
Another away game: Check. Another win: Check.
Another hatful of goals: Check. Top of the league: Check. Promotion: Check imminent…
So three tricky away games negotiated, and a haul of seven points and ten goals is a superb return from these rampant Blades! I’ve seen and heard it said that some fans were ‘disappointed’ at our second half performance in letting Swindon back into the game, and at 2-2 it could be argued that the game should have been out of Swindon’s sight after a first half we totally dominated.
But when a side scores from a 30 yard shot that screams into the top corner after about 30 seconds of the second half to get a toe-hold back in the game, they are obviously going to get a boost. In fact, they also then scored from another long-range effort a few minutes later, and I suggest that lesser sides than us may have crumbled and snatched defeat from the jaws of near certain victory. But not us. Not now. Not this season.
We are now made of much stronger stuff than that. Chris Wilder’s new Blades have proven their mettle and are made of true Sheffield steel. We regrouped, got a grip on the game, capitalised on their mistakes and came out worthy winners. Job done.
Please don’t get too concerned that we’ve shipped seven goals in our last three games, either. Whilst it would be defensively great to get clean sheets all the time, football doesn’t work like that. Decent professional opposition will always create chances, cause teams problems, and yes, score goals! Swindon’s two goals were the result of speculative long range shots that have an incredibly low percentage chance of actually going in.
To score from one in a game is unusual. To score from two is highly unlikely. It won’t happen again this season... probably not anyway! And on the subject of shots, as long as we keep creating far more chances and shots at goal than all our opponents, we will remain exactly where we currently are... top of the league.
Another thing to note with regard to chances is that it’s because of the outstandingly good players we currently have in our team and squad, it therefore then follows that the chances we create through our sheer ability on the ball are usually very good chances indeed. We regularly carve teams open though our approach play in and around the penalty area, and aren’t we also lucky that to top off all this good work we have our red-hot goal scorer and clinical finisher... the man who simply can’t stop scoring and is having a quite wonderful season.
Yes, of course I refer to Kieron Freeman! What a revelation this lad has been this season. From the transfer list and a seemingly very bleak Blades future, to one of our most consistent performers and our second-top goal scorer with an amazing total of nine goals from 37 games.
I say amazing because let’s remember he’s primarily a defender, although in this current United side he does far more attacking than defending! His willingness and enthusiasm to make those charges down the right side are fabulous to see and lots of our attacking threat comes through the link up play on that side. He also has this marvellous knack of arriving unnoticed and unmarked deep into the opposition penalty area to get on the end of crosses from the left, and another even more marvellous knack of scoring from them when they do!
The wing-back system seems to be very much back in fashion these days with the likes of Chelsea and Spurs employing players such as Victor Moses, Danny Rose and ex-Blade Kyle Walker as attack-minded defenders. Two ex-wingers, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, raid down the flanks for Manchester United and indeed, everywhere you look in the higher divisions you will find creative, attack minded players in full-back positions.
I can speak from experience as I made the switch from an attacking midfielder to a full-back some 30 years ago in my Wimbledon days! My first instinct through my career as a full-back was always to get forward, but it obviously helps if your team is generally doing more attacking than defending!
The current Blades team certainly does that and Kieron is taking full advantage and although I’ll admit to a little full-back bias and because of all his circumstances above, he’s my current choice of Player of the Year in a season where there are many very worthy candidates.
In fact, the last full-back winner of this award was 1995 (do the research!) so another one is long overdue! UTBKevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield, S18. @ManorHouse_S18
Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev