Kevin Gage's Blades Column: It's time to jump on board the Sheffield United promotion bandwagon and have some faith
Before this week's column, here's a quick song...
"And now you’re gonna believe me, And now you’re gonna believe me, And now you’re gonna believe meeee..."
We all know the next line, but if you ask yourself the question ‘Are the Blades going up?’, I think even the most battle-scarred, League One weary, pessimistic Blade would allow themselves a smidgen of belief that this could actually be the year that we get out of this league and back on the road to playing in the higher divisions, and a place where this great club really belongs.
I’m going to shelve my natural modesty this week and indulge in a bit of self-congratulation in having been able to spot the signs of this teams potential some months ago. Check out my column written in October HERE, when I said that I believed that this side, playing this way, would get promoted. I think we can all now genuinely jump on board this promotion bandwagon and have faith and belief in what is unfolding at our club this season.
Only one defeat in 21 league games and now five wins on the bounce has left us three points clear at the top. The evidence is therefore right in front of our eyes. See it, and believe it.
So, I believed back in October. I still do. Absolutely. I’m also pretty certain that the players now firmly believe in themselves, their team mates, the team set-up and, crucially, they also believe in their manager. He has ‘previous’ as a manager after all, as shown by the standing ovation and adulation shown by Northampton’s fans on Saturday.
Talking of ‘previous’, I can wholly relate to the excitement and the growing belief that the Blades players are experiencing, as I’ve been there and done that... quite a few times actually! I was part of Dave Bassett’s Wimbledon team that stormed their way up from the old Division Four to the top flight in just four seasons.
The style of football we played was a world away from this current Blades team, but we believed in ourselves and what we were doing, we believed in our manager, and the rest, as they say, is history. I then moved clubs to be part of Aston Villa’s attempt to immediately bounce back to the top flight and I played every minute of every game in their promotion season of 1987-88. Four promotions in six seasons then. Not too bad a record!
Two different teams, two different managers, and two different styles, but the common factor was always the growing realisation amongst the players as the seasons unfolded that promotion was not only achievable, but was probably going to happen if we maintained our form, fitness and work ethic.
You play all of the teams in the league and you realise what you’re up against. It then slowly dawns that your own ability, together with that of your team mates, and then formed into a team unit is more than good enough to come out on top, or at least win your aim of promotion. Now of course all teams start the new season full of hope that this could be ‘their year’, but in the vast majority of cases reality sets in and they are found wanting.
This Blades squad must have also hoped for the same things, but none of them could have truly, hand-on-heart ‘believed’ it would definitely happen. They still will hope it does of course, but I’ll bet they now also firmly believe it actually will. That’s the crucial difference as hope and belief are two very different emotions. Us Blades know this only too well, as our past record in the play-offs will confirm. We always hope to triumph, but after nine failed attempts we now believe we probably won’t!
But as this seasons wins have 'mounted up, the unbeaten runs have continued, and the team have settled into this formation and style of play, I think their belief and confidence levels have grown and grown, and will continue to grow as the seasons pans out. The team also seems to grow in confidence and belief over the actual games themselves as the amount of second half goals we score shows.
It’s a quite amazing current total of 32, as opposed to 14 in first half, and the number of very late goals we also get is a tribute to the belief and determination of the players, as they simply refuse to give in and accept any defeat, or even think that a draw ‘will do’. Even as Northampton dug in and defended for their lives on Saturday, I always thought that we’d score.
I got the same feeling at Bury, and wasn’t fazed one iota when they took the lead with that outrageously good strike. I believed we’d score, and thought that we’d then go on to win it. I’m not being wise after the event either. Check my Twitter feed if you need to. At 4.09pm, I said we were due a goal soon due to dominating the chances in the game - and ten minutes later, we scored!
I’ll sign off this week with some more past words I found on the internet, amongst the tens of thousands probably written so far this season about our team. The ones below were written by me, in my very first column for The Star back in early August!
'The Blades will evolve as a team, add some more quality and will also certainly improve as the season goes, but the early signs are there that we are going to have a Blades team to be proud of once again, one that will be all-action and giving it real go, every minute of every game. I can’t wait... Bring it on!'
I believe I was right, and maybe now you’re gonna believe meeeeee…..THE BLADES ARE GOING UP!