Kevin Gage's Blades Column: Time to start believing, Sheffield United fans... Chris Wilder's current side is good enough to win promotion
So, Blades, we know better than any fans in the country that it's foolhardy in the extreme to get too carried away with thoughts that this is definitely 'our year'.
It’s the P word. The word that’s consumed us Blades fans for the past five seasons and counting. A word that has on occasions seemed so close and yet at the same time, so very far away. Always seemingly beyond our reach, leading to footballing heartbreak, inevitable disappointment and then sometimes giving rise to other more industrial language like the F word and the C word!
The word is, of course, PROMOTION.
There, I’ve said it. It’s out there and there’s no going back now. We have to face the reality unfolding before our very eyes that this current Blades team is good. Very good, actually, and yes, more than good enough to get promotion.
That’s my opinion, and it seems I’m not alone. Bradford City boss Stuart McCall stated of us that “any team that finished above them will get promoted”. I agree, because we have reached a level of consistency in our performances that by any standards you choose is hugely impressive, and I see no reason why this should alter any time soon.
Saturday's game was an absolute belter of a local derby, and those who were there and caught up in the thrills and spills of it all may have concluded that a point each was fair enough. Not so. Totally wrong in fact.
I’ve since watched a re-run of the game, objectively, with the sound turned down and no outside influences and not only did we easily deserve to win, but on just about any other Saturday in a season we would have done so comfortably. It’s maybe expected of us to go to bottom-of-the-table Shrewsbury, in front of a small crowd, dominate the game, have more than double the amount of shots (18 to 8) than them at goal and to score three times.
However, to go to the club second in the league, in front of 19,000 vocal home fans, to AGAIN have more than double the amount of shots (17 to 8) at goal than the home team, and to score ANOTHER three goals is a quite superb performance. Bradford only actually managed three shots on target at our goal, yet amazingly, and totally against the laws of averages, scored from all three!
No blame attached to our defence by the way, which has looked rock solid for weeks. Sometimes these anomalies just happen.
We are now consistently playing very well in all areas of the pitch, especially going forward, and getting into great attacking positions to create chances and to get efforts at goal. We are also playing with confidence and a real swagger, which is to be expected of a team that has now gone ten league games unbeaten, of which seven have been wins.
It’s also to be noted that during this run we’ve played seven teams of the eight nearest to us at the top, and beaten five of them. In fact only Bolton of the top half teams have beaten us, and that was on the opening day on the season with a Blades team that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the current one!
Looking lower down the table, we’ve also only played two of the bottom eight, and we now have three home games out of the next four, two of which are against struggling teams, with only our second-bottom neighbours Chesterfield to play away. Let’s take nothing for granted but that P word is going to get mentioned more and more if we maintain our form.
When supporting SUFC, we accept our position as the ‘big club’ in League One and we totally understand that we have no divine right to be in a higher division. We’ve also been through the pay-off mill enough times thank you very much, and as for our chickens, well… let’s just estimate how many we’ve got rather than count them.
But, at some stage, we need to have some belief. The players will have it, the manager will have it ( he has previous remember) and us fans need to have it. I certainly believe in this team, playing this way, with this manager at the helm. The evidence of the past seven weeks is there for us all to see for ourselves on the pitch, and the numbers and stats also paint a promising picture.
Promising... another P word. To go with the others that are shaping our season. On the pitch there’s pride, passion, positivity, performance, pace and power, whilst off it there’s preparation, planning, precision and professionalism. It all points to PROMOTION. Possibly? Potentially?
But for me, playing like this, the word to use is probably. UTB.