Let’s face it, Sheffield United know by now that they’re never likely to be re-entering the Championship through the tradesman’s entrance.
Other clubs do it almost routinely – scuffle up to the door scruffily attired and sneak through with everyone looking the other way.
Oh no, it’s a suited and booted job for the Blades.
Of course, United don’t do play-offs. Well, they do but very badly. Which is why the footballing finery gathered by Nigel Clough is geared as much to being competitive in the division above as finally escaping League One.
While it might seem that Bramall Lane’s best laid plans have been jinxed across much of the past three seasons, the reality is that the bigger clubs at third tier level have to go a few more rungs than their rivals to climb from it. Wolves were high and handsome last season knowing they had to be. Their escape has left United as THE team to beat.
Then there’s the great leveller of having so many – indeed, TOO many – derbies. While they’ll be rubbing hands at Barnsley, Bradford, Chesterfield, Doncaster and Scunthorpe, I doubt the appetite for them at the Lane is quite so great. But it will have to be in order to negotiate having 10 out of 46 fixtures – more than a fifth – as potentially frenzied affairs.
This is where Nigel Clough faces a major challenge for which he looks well equipped. As a group under his control last season, United were a dedicated and formidable force. His recruitment, in terms of characters, has been geared to furthering that. On grounds of quality, I have no doubt that the Blades are the best in the division. Or should be. Large scale additions this summer have enhanced that sense of conviction.
This club needs to be top two, not scrabbling around for a lottery ticket. But, for the reasons above, it will be about more than just ability.
Just as last season, when Leyton Orient led the field for so long, there will be teams who surprise. Then there are those who will expect to challenge – Preston, Peterborough, Doncaster. But I’m confident that, under this manager and in this reshaped regime giving him a rare degree of control, the Blades will stay on the front foot and march towards that front entrance.