James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: The mistake The Blades must not make this summer

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One hundred points, undefeated since January and seven straight wins at the business end of the season; it is fair to say, I think, that Sheffield United’s class of 2016/17 was simply far too good for League One.

Which begs the question: Are they good enough for the Championship? Something, given that Chris Wilder has already outlined plans to strengthen over the summer, we will probably never know. But I hope, without being sentimental, the vast majority of those players who left Bolton Wanderers and Bradford City trailing in their wake get the opportunity to prove themselves against the likes of Leeds and Aston Villa next term. To deny them that chance would, I fear, be a mistake because United something special is happening at United right now.

Chris Wilder and his squad clearly enjoy each other's company: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Wilder and his squad clearly enjoy each other's company: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Football, or any sport for that matter, is part calibre and part character. Especially in team disciplines.

Every professional needs an ego. It takes a certain type of individual, however, to put the needs of the group before their own. Not least when careers are short and earnings must be maximised. Chemistry is key. The power of personality should not be under-estimated.

Football is littered with examples of clubs who enjoy success with a close knit squad one season and then experience failure the next because, in a misguided attempt to fit in with their new fashionable peers, they break it up. Constant churn in the transfer market, as United and at least one of their neighbours have discovered in recent years, can cause monumental damage to the atmosphere off the pitch and results on it.

There are a number of reasons why this set of players - pieced together over the course of two busy transfer windows but underpinned by long-standing servants such as Chris Basham, George Long and Paul Coutts - finished 14 points clear of their nearest rivals.

Sheffield United's players have celebrated long and hard since their title triumph: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Sheffield United's players have celebrated long and hard since their title triumph: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

The most important, as I’ve witnessed over the course of the past 12 months, is that they have all invested emotionally in United and get along. Something which, unfortunately, can not always be said of every individual to wear the famous red and white stripes since 2011. The identity of those, accused by colleagues of being driven by self-interest, would probably surprise many readers of this column.

Yes, the quality and depth of options in certain areas will need to be improved. But, by and large, these players have earned the right to have a crack at the Championship.