SHEFFIELD UNITED: League One Blades have to pretend it’s Barcelona

Youth chance: Elliott Whitehouse should feature next season
Youth chance: Elliott Whitehouse should feature next season

IT might not contain too many highlights.

Few entries which immediately capture the imagination or set the pulses racing.

Indeed, with games against the likes of Bournemouth, Scunthorpe and Bury following hot on the heels of a visit by Shrewsbury Town, Sheffield United’s diary next season appears something of a slow burn.

Nevertheless, when Danny Wilson’s squad reassembles at Shirecliffe next month, they must prepare with the same vigour and determination as if they were about to face Barcelona or Benfica.

Because, in 12 months’ time, United want to be scribbling Championship dates into their schedule.

Not working out how best to shoehorn Johnstone Paint Trophy ties and early rounds of the FA Cup into what is already a congested League One calendar.

Discussions about tough months or difficult fortnights are, providing a team is made of the right stuff mentally, pretty pointless.

After all, you have got to play everyone twice and, at this stage, it is impossible to predict who will find fifth gear and who will struggle.

Did anyone really think Stevenage would emerge as serious contenders last time around? Or that Preston North End, one of those expected to be jostling for position with United at the upper end of the table, would fail to trouble the top six?

Nevertheless, United can make some assumptions about what their next 46 matches hold.

First, that once again they will be viewed as a prized scalp by the majority of teams in the division.

Second, that youngsters such as Elliott Whitehouse, Terry Kennedy and Joe Ironside will be given the opportunity to flourish.

And third, they will be expected to succeed.

Kevin McCabe, United’s chairman and owner, admitted before May’s Play-off Final defeat by Huddersfield Town that, barring promotion “the only box which has been left half-ticked” during Wilson’s first year at the helm related to assimilating home-grown talent into the Blades’ senior side.

With key names expected to depart, the starting 11 which entertain’s Graham Turner’s charges on August 18 will probably bear little resemblance to the one beaten in such heartbreaking fashion at Wembley.

An intriguing campaign lies ahead.