Everyone should aspire to being the best they can be and in football that means aiming for the Premier League. Never – since the single top flight season of 2006-07 – has that ambition burned more brightly at Bramall Lane.
But there are still times when I think Sheffield United can count their blessings for life in the Championship. Hear me out on this.
I’m not for one minute suggesting that should be the ceiling for a club with a top division history and support that eclipses at least five current members of the elite (Watford, Bournemouth, Fulham, Burnley and Huddersfield).
United could not only sit easily in such company but also compete, looking at the performance, current and recent, of all of those aforementioned clubs.
The frustration is to be outside of it for so long amid unfair and self-perpetuating parachute payments for relegated outfits – and the hard slog needed to break down the door to the only arena of football offering break-even finances, let alone a profit. Until that time clubs like the Blades have to keep on finding money that isn’t there.
However, there are reasons to be cheerful about life in the Championship. One long-standing United supporter, probably in a minority of one, shocked me by saying he actually didn’t want his club to be promoted – he liked his football as it was, thank you very much. That’s normally an accusation levelled at boards of directors. I doubt you’d find anyone in the Bramall Lane hierarchy to share it, certainly not with the rewards on offer. And you’d hope that, come January, that will see the club break open some of the untouched £12m received for David Brooks.
Most, if not all of the above, also applies on the other side of the city; especially so in that Wednesday have been estranged from the Premier League since 2000.
Yet the Championship has its compensations and I pick United as the better example because of their recent six years of misery in League One. There are 23 home league games for starters, compared to 19.
Gain promotion and you can wave goodbye to all but a few 3pm Saturday kick-offs. Prepare to be dragged around on the whim of the TV companies, even more than currently.
Win fewer games, have to fight for survival, at least initially. Not a certainty but a likelihood.
Then there’s the type of football.
Yes, the skills of the very top performers are out of this world at times but they belong mainly to a handful of clubs on another planet. Can anyone tell me that Premier League games are more exciting than those in the Championship where the playing field is more even and competition is always right on the edge? To which United are contributing handsomely (writing ahead of Blackburn last night) in front of regular 25,000 plus audiences.
Then there’s the Premier League media microscope that magnifies individuals to such an extent we are in danger of forgetting what the sport actually is.
It’s not, or shouldn’t be, about one of the highest profile managers being at war with his highest profile player. Yet the Jose Mourinho-Paul Pogba saga commands more attention and probably generates more entertainment for the new breed of football consumer (or customer) than what happens on the field. It’s an absolute nonsense.
Doubtless there are stand-offs of some degree at every club in the land.
It’s human nature when one person is trying to manage a large group of people. Same as in any office.
But the personalities don’t, or shouldn’t, dominate the agenda.
So, to sum up, enjoy the healthier environment and more wholesome rivalry of the Championship while it lasts.
Which may not be for very long. Premier League? It’s on. Bring it on!