PICTURES: Jubilant Blades fans celebrate 'best ever season' in style

The open top bus arrives in the city (Dean Atkins)
The open top bus arrives in the city (Dean Atkins)
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A sea of red-and-white and a cacophony of klaxons greeted Sheffield United's title-winning heroes as fans thronged the city centre for yesterday evening's reception.

Blades supporters have endured a long, hard wait for promotion to the Championship, but having kept faith they turned out in force outside Sheffield Town Hall to celebrate this season's incredible 100-point haul.

A young fan shows his support (Dean Atkins)

A young fan shows his support (Dean Atkins)

For Dot Howe and her grandson Rhys Drinkwater, the occasion was particularly resonant.

Dot lost her husband Chris to cancer on January 30 this year, since when United have not lost a league game.

"Chris was a devoted United fan and I'm a firm believer my husband's been blowing the ball into the net," she said.

"He's not looking down on this, he's here with us," she added, pulling out a photo of him in the club colours.

Fans proudly show off their colours (Dean Atkins)

Fans proudly show off their colours (Dean Atkins)

Although most supporters remember United's Premier League days, Nathan Blunkett was not alone in describing this as the most enjoyable season.

"It's an absolute honour to be here today after the best season I've seen in my life," said the 18-year-old.

"I'm looking forward to beating Wednesday twice next year, and I reckon if we re-sign Ched Evans we can go straight up."

Harry Royston, aged 15, said: "It's brilliant to be here. This is the best season I've witnessed, especially as they've played a different, more attacking brand of football."

Crowds greet their heroes outside Sheffield Town Hall (Dean Atkins)

Crowds greet their heroes outside Sheffield Town Hall (Dean Atkins)

This was not a day for rivalries, but many Blades fans cheekily told how they were relishing the Steel City derbies next season, especially as that would mean Wednesday failing to secure promotion via the play-offs.

Brian Whitham was one of the few willing the Owls to succeed, but not without good reason.

"I've got a £50 double on them both going up, so I don't want there to be any city derbies next season," said the 62-year-old, from Manor, who has been watching the Blades since he was two.

"This means everything to me. We've spent six years in League One, so to win the title with 100 points is amazing, and the football's been great to watch."

Fans went to great lengths (and heights) to get the best view (Dean Atkins)

Fans went to great lengths (and heights) to get the best view (Dean Atkins)

Joe Newbould, a 23-year-old mechanic from Arbourthorne, was there with his seven-year-old stepdaughter Ruby Scaife, who is a big Billy Sharp fan.

"It's beautiful. It's still not sunk in yet that we've actually done it. I was crying at the match on Sunday," he said.

Like many fans gathered outside the town hall, he picked John Fleck and Sharp as his players of the season, but reserved a special mention for Paul Coutts and Kieron Freeman for proving their value to the club after being transfer-listed.

Jamie Furniss and Dale Moore secured their place in front of the barriers four hours before the victory reception began.

After the false dawns of recent seasons, when United failed to deliver on promising starts, Dale echoed many fans in saying he had not celebrated until promotion was guaranteed.

"I didn't believe this was going to be the year until it was mathematically impossible for anyone to catch us," said the 27-year-old cook from Norton.

A young fan is held aloft during the celebrations (Dean Atkins)

A young fan is held aloft during the celebrations (Dean Atkins)

But he added that he was cautiously confident about next season's campaign, predicting a top-half finish under the guidance of Chris Wilder, a manager he described as 'the best outside the Premier League'.

Jamie, who said he had been to every game this season, home and away, added: "You've got to cherish this. I think it's 12 years since we had something like this when we got promoted to the Premier League."

Thomas Howarth claimed his spot in front of the barriers at 2.30pm to ensure the best view.

"Last time I came when we got promoted to the Premiership I was all the way back by Nationwide and I could hardly see a thing, so I wanted to get here early, said the 33-year-old sales assistant, from Nether Edge.

"It's a relief to be back in the Championship after six long years. There have been times you wonder why am I doing this, but you stick with it and hope the good times will come back, and they are coming back.

"It's been like I've got my club back with Wilder in charge. He's brought back what it means to be a Blade. The players are playing with a smile on their faces and they have respect for the manager."

Also celebrating were a group of friends and family from Gleadless Valley, calling themselves 'The Valley Girls'.

Gemma Collier was there with daughters Libby, aged seven, and Sophia, two, plus her mum Barbara Preece and family friend Gail Wingfield.

"This is the best season in all my years supporting United," said the 31-year-old.

"They've played good football, the atmosphere has been great and you've got to give the manager his dues for getting the best out of all the players. I think they can finish second next season."

Gail added: "It's about time but it's been a fantastic season and it's great to be here. My dad will be dancing up there. I think they can go all the way next season and become champions. We're going to show them."

Brian Whitham said he had placed 50 on both Sheffield sides to go up, at odds of 600 to one

Brian Whitham said he had placed 50 on both Sheffield sides to go up, at odds of 600 to one

Thomas Howarth kisses the club crest

Thomas Howarth kisses the club crest

Ruby Scaife, aged seven, with stepfather Joe Newbould, and Dale Moore

Ruby Scaife, aged seven, with stepfather Joe Newbould, and Dale Moore

Nathan Blunkett (centre) with Liam Fowler (left) and Graham Hodges (right)

Nathan Blunkett (centre) with Liam Fowler (left) and Graham Hodges (right)

Dot Howe and her grandson Rhys Drinkwater

Dot Howe and her grandson Rhys Drinkwater