One nil to the… hang on a minute

Another brilliant performance by my beloved Sheffield United last night, full of commitment and hard work, set on a solid foundation of tactical genius, and backed up by 30,000 passionate South Yorkshire voices.

Some say that they could see it coming:

Arsenal have played more Premier League games at Bramall Lane without victory than they have any other ground in the competition (4 – D2 L2).

It was a great night to be a Blade and – for the moment at least – I’m rather enjoying this little Premiership adventure trip we’re on. I don’t know if people who support “big teams” really understand what it is like to have been playing Southend United (no offence, Southend fans) and Tranmere Rovers (offence, Tranmere fans) a couple of years ago and then find yourself playing the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal each week.

I’m in dreamland.

Sheffield United’s Dean Henderson has kept 25 clean sheets in the league since the start of last season; more than any other goalkeeper in England’s top four tiers.

That’s not to say that it’s always enjoyable watching the games. Sure, I’m loving seeing us pitted against the best that England (and often, Europe) has to offer week in, week out, but it still feels like every game is a cup final. That means that the pressure is constantly on and it seems that I am fully engaged, as my watch’s stress monitor showed me:

I love the way you can actually pinpoint kickoff at 9pm.

I feel like I aged 10 years in 90 minutes and I don’t even care, although I will be older than Medusa by the time the season’s over. Last night, only a celebratory brandy was enough to bring me back down from a near heart attack and I didn’t get to sleep until 3am.

Don’t even care…

This season

Sheffield United kick off their season this afternoon with an away day at Bournemouth. I’m looking forward to it with a certain amount of trepidation, but as a lifelong fan, it is just brilliant to see them back up in the Premier League.

You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to work out that this is going to be a tough season for the Blades. The jump from Championship to Premier League is huge, and while the rewards of being up there are also impressive, there’s no way that  we can compete financially from day one. Our basic aim should be survival, and for that reason, I’m more than ready to accept 17th place or higher if I get offered it anytime soon.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure that’s not how things work.

I’ve made many predictions about football over the years, and been vaguely accurate in at least some of them, so ahead of our big day today, I thought I’d make a couple more.

This season my predictions for United are as follows:

I think that we are capable of giving anyone a difficult time at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane. Sure, I don’t expect us to win all our home games, but I think we will surprise some clubs when they come to S2.

Of course, I recognise that we are going to lose a lot more games than we’ve been used to of late. And we might ship some serious numbers on occasion too. But we’re playing the likes of the  Champions of Europe this season, not the Champions of the Third Division, and so some reality is to be expected in the dreamland that we find ourselves.

As I’ve said above, I’ll more than happily settle for staying up this season. Given where we’ve come from and who we’re up against, just doing that will be another massive achievement. And anything better will be a huge bonus.

I want us to play every game with the spirit that we throw into every FA Cup tie against the big boys, because every game will be that important and will be that intense. I know that the true fans will happily accept any scoreline if the team have played their hearts out: we do understand what we’re up against here.

I’m just so happy to see us back up in the Premier League and I’m hoping against hope that this is the start of a positive new chapter for the mighty Red And White Wizzzzzards!

Outlay

It seems like only the week before last that I was saying just how good the Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is. And with Aston Villa promoted to the Premier League this afternoon via the playoffs, this graphic made it on to my twitter feed:

Now, in no way am I saying that £8.6million is not a lot of money, but everything is relative and when you see it relative to how much others have spent (and you note that Leeds and Derby didn’t even get promoted), suddenly it doesn’t seem like that much of a lot of money.

In fact, compare it with the money flying around the top leagues of Europe and it’s less than 10% of a Paul Pogba (hopefully you don’t get the 10% with the mouth or the mood swings), and just 4% of a Neymar.
And that’s all we’ve spent in the last three years.

Wilder is clearly very shrewd when it comes to the transfer market, and very good at getting the best from the players he has. That’s a great skill to have in the lower leagues, but can it translate to buying the right players (here I am assuming that he has the right money to do so) to stay up in the Premier League? Obviously, I hope so. But I’m also a realist:

Just checking now, we’re the hot favourites to be relegated next season (4/6 on), with Norwich (4/5) and Villa (11/10) close behind. Burnley, Brighton, Newcastle and Southampton are considered the most at risk of those who survived this season. Given the recent record of promoted teams, that’s no surprise, but we’ve bucked the odds before and I’m sure we’ll make every effort to do it again.

Come on you Red And White Wizzzzzzards!

He’s one of our own

The kerfuffle of the Championship season run-in may have just about blown over for Blades fans, but the excitement is only just beginning to build and the awards for our manager keep on coming in:

Add that to LMA Championship Manager of the Year, EFL Championship Manager of the Year and EFL Manager of the Year and you can maybe begin to understand what a special talent this guy has. I mean, he could have spent over £20 million over two years on new players, got six fewer points and we could still be in the Championship next season, but that didn’t happen*.

Next season is going to be very, very tough, and simply surviving is going to be the objective. But I’d rather be playing Liverpool than Luton Town, Man City than Millwall, Chelsea than Charlton. We’ll get beaten – maybe quite often – but at least we’re in the Premier League, and that’s mainly down to this guy.

Thank you, Chris

 

* (to us)

It’s Back!

The English Premier League returns this weekend and international coverage promises to be better than ever before, with the fantastic John Dykes at the helm – and he’s already been tweeting teasers of the new studio.

Look at that touchscreen! LOOK AT IT!

Bu__Ih_IQAAHUCs

And the horrendous pink has gone! Lawd be praised!

They don’t use Kasabian’s Fire as the EPL theme music any more, but for the millions of SA fans, the two will always remain inextricably linked. Thus, it is presented here:

And yes, that’s beautiful Piketberg in the video.