Kevin Gage's Blades Column: Forget the pain of the past... Chris Wilder's Sheffield United aren't about to choke now!
Now I know us Blades are generally a pessimistic bunch when it comes to football, and to be fair, with very good reason over the years!
The list of disappointments and outright calamities we’ve endured in recent times would fill a whole page (and column!) and the sheer thought of the word ‘play-off’ brings us out in a cold sweat.
A mention of words such as Wembley, Hopkins, the Millenium Stadium, cup semi-finals, Tevez, Unsworth, Ched, Simonsen etc, still sends a shiver down our spines, and don’t even get me started on the results on the last day of the season in 1994 that saw us go from being 15th and safe at 4.20pm to relegated some 20 minutes later.
Generally then, I think it’s fair to say that rather than looking at our cups as being half-full, they’re not only half-empty, but indeed knocked over and spilt all over the new carpet! We’re Blades, it’s what we do.
But now, SURELY, the pessimists, the prophets of doom, the cup half-empty brigade and indeed every single Blade out there can believe that this, finally, is the season where we can uncross our fingers, stop praying to whichever footballing God we follow and put all the years of disappointment and negativity behind us.
We can do so because Chris Wilder, his staff and his players have now changed the culture at Sheffield United from being perennial nearly men and plucky losers, to being proud main men and deserving winners. It’s been a quite phenomenal turn around in such a relatively short space of time and whatever the outcome is this season, it’s been an absolute privilege to witness.
The game last Saturday epitomised everything that has changed for the better regarding this Blades team, as we coped with an very impressive and extremely fast start from a seemingly very good Charlton side. How they are so low in this league is ridiculous with the players and the potential they clearly have.
But we stood our ground in that first 20 minutes, and we competed. Led by the brilliant Chris Basham and the outstanding Jack O’Connell, we won crucial tackles and won important headers. We matched their energy levels and then slowly but surely our ability came shining through and we got our equaliser, turned the game around impressively and in truth a score of 3-1 or 4-1 wouldn’t have flattered us.
Some of our second-half approach play around the penalty area and out wide was equally impressive. In fact, at times it was sublime. Football is still an entertainment business and the appreciation shown by nearly 23,000 Blades as we cut Charlton to shreds on occasions was clear for all to see and hear, only matched by the standing ovation at the final whistle at yet another quality home performance... and another win. Job done... again.
So we’re ten points clear of third place (with a far better goal difference too) and there’s only eight games left. Given that in his last 62 league games as a manager, Chris Wilder has only lost SIX times, does anyone out there seriously think that we’re now going to lose another six or more of our last eight games? No, me neither.
It would take a sequence of losses similar to that to wreck our promotion party, and trust me, it’s simply not going to happen! As I wrote here in the first week of January (link please Editor...) the Blades ARE going up. The only question left to be answered is when.
Finally, before the Charlton game, I got a tweet from a Blade follower who’d just bet Â£5 at odds of 100-1 that SUFC would NOT go up this season. Talk about hedging your bets!!! In fairness, he said that should the unthinkable happen, the Â£500 would pay for his play-off tickets and also the drinks to "numb the pain” of disappointment again.
I told him that he’d wasted a fiver, but if his bet does comes in he won’t be the only Blade drowning his sorrows with a some pain-numbing pints! I own a bar…you might never see or hear from me again! UTBKevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield. @ManorHouse_S18. Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev