Kevin Gage's Blades Column: It's a certainty these days that Sheffield United will get the job done
It's often said that these days we live in uncertain times and an uncertain world, but in today's football world there are some things of which we can be absolutely certain.
For instance, our England team, whoever’s in charge, will let us down at major tournaments. Two others are that Arsenal will always qualify for the Champions League, but never win it, and a team managed by Tony Pulis won’t get relegated.
Closer to our football home, I think that us Blades can now offer up a few more certainties with regard to this current side and its management team.
The first one, and for me by far the most important, is that this team will always deliver a performance of absolute commitment, passion, enthusiasm, and all those other adjectives that we like to throw about randomly in the hope that some apply. This season, from the evidence of the last 20+ games, all of them do.
Many people saw Saturday’s trip to Southend as a potential ‘banana-skin’ against a team unbeaten in 13 games, having not lost at home for six months, and on the crest of a current-form wave. But roared on by an amazing 1500 travelling Blades, we put on arguably the performance of the season so far to avoid any potential slip-ups and ran out comfortable winners.
As a statement of intent to the chasing pack of teams, it was certainly loud and clear... We are the best team in the league, we are top of the table and shall NOT be moved. The Scunthorpe, Bolton and other opposition team's players will have been eagerly awaiting the score line from Roots Hall as they trudged back to their respective changing rooms on Saturday afternoon, in the valid hope that we’d fail the difficult test Southend would pose.
To then find out that we’d comfortably passed the test, with flying red and white colours, must have come as a bitter blow… GOOD! Get used to it boys, ‘cos there’s a lot more of that coming your way! Going back to the certainties theme, Southend certainly put up a decent performance as their fans appreciated in their post-match comments. But once again, this Blades team were up to the task.
In a keenly contested first half, when we were put under considerable pressure by a home side already jolted by our fast start and early goal, we stood firm defensively, and helped by having a top quality goalkeeper behind our strong central defensive unit, we came through.
We passed the test, a test that saw us crumble last season on the same ground. To go in at half-time a goal up was a welcome bonus - maybe a bit harsh on Southend - and you’d expect them to come back out all guns blazing, but this season with this Blades team, a second half onslaught from any opposition just simply never happens. In fact the complete opposite happens.
We actually outscore the opposition by three to one in the second half of matches this season, as we consistently step up a gear and impose ourselves on the game. It seems to be another ‘certainty’ as it now happens every match! It happens physically with our energy, fitness and strength.
It happens mentally with our desire to keep going and believe that we’ll come out on top, and in the absolutely vital area of sheer footballing ability, well... it happens naturally as we are head and shoulders above anything I’ve seen in this division, and after 26 games, the league table certainly backs that statement up.
So we certainly deliver committed performances and second half onslaughts, but is there anything else we can be certain of in this Blades team? Well, yes and I’ll offer quite a few actually. The certainty that Simon Moore will make crucial saves when he needs to. That John Fleck will get even better than he is. Ditto Jack O’Connell. That Paul Coutts will continue to prove to be an outstanding playmaker. That Kieron Freeman will keep getting into goal-scoring positions and even score a few more.
That our centre-backs will not only stop goals going in, they will score them too. That Billy Sharp will score his customary 20+ goals this season. That Mark Duffy will create umpteen chances for others, have a good game and then be subbed! The list could go on and on, but you get my drift.
All managers look for their individual players and their team as a whole to put in a consistently good level of performance, and Chris Wilder and his management team have now proved beyond any doubt that this Blades team certainly achieve just that. Factor in the sheer talent in this group of players and we have a proven winning formula, as the past four months have shown.
The next four months? Well, with 20 games still to go we can’t of course be absolutely 100 per cent certain of promotion but this team, in this consistent form, playing in this style, under this manager, will certainly get the job done.
So it’s six wins on the bounce, four points clear at the top, and just one defeat in the past 22 games. That defeat came in a performance of such domination that 99 times out of 100 we’d have won it, as our 21 shots at goal, 60-plus-percent possession, two disallowed goals and a missed penalty bear testimony to. The opposition that night were Walsall.
Next Saturday we are away... to Walsall. The Blades are coming for you. Get ready - because we are Sheffield United, we are top of the League, and we shall NOT be moved. And of that, I’m certain! UTB
Kevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield, S18. Follow on Twitter: @ManorHouse_S18 and @gageykev