Alan Biggs at Large: Sheffield United far from alone at the lower end of Championship table
Strange to say the scale of the task facing Sheffield United is better represented by a glance behind them in the Championship table - rather than to the 13 teams currently above.
There are more clubs of an historically similar size trailing the Blades than leading them at this stage.
Now this is not an excuse for languishing in 14th, albeit less than a quarter of the way into the campaign.
But it does highlight that United are far from alone in grappling with what is expected of well supported sides in a league bursting apart with them.
Bursting to the point of going bust in some cases, which is where the game as a whole must make some radical readjustments.
However, even the desperately needed reform promised by the Government’s fan-led review won’t alter the perception that venues like Bramall Lane, regularly attracting crowds pushing 30,000, ought to be higher in the rankings.
A quick glance over the shoulder at this point. From directly below downwards, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Nottingham Forest, Swansea, Cardiff and Derby (allowing that they would be above United on 14 points but for their hefty deduction).
That’s six clubs of roughly comparable size. You could make out a tenuous case for Hull as a seventh.
Look above now and there are only four - West Brom, Stoke, Fulham and Blackburn. Again, there will be suitors for Coventry and QPR but they would have to be behind on size and support.
What this does is place the challenge in some perspective. It speaks of the levelling out of standards across the league, of a combined dragging down effect where anybody can beat anybody.
Some would call it a dragging up, those who revel in the unpredictability of a league that keeps us fascinated for nine months of every year.
But it’s no fun trying to clamber out. What strikes me most is the sheer physicality of it. Superior quality doesn’t always count and this has been the biggest lesson so far for Slavisa Jokanovic’s team.
Players are at closer quarters than ever before in terms of closing down and general harrying, squeezing time on the ball and rewarding those who win more of it.
Athleticism first, artistry second might be one way of looking at it. Certainly, United should have enough of the second to start closing the 13 point gap on leaders Bournemouth.
But, notwithstanding Jokanovic’s good intentions, he will know it can’t necessarily be pretty.