So, I’m going to do my best with this week's article, but seeing as due to print deadlines I have to write it BEFORE last night’s Coventry game, you’ll appreciate that my ‘Mystic Kev’ powers might be tested to the full!
I did foresee and predict our promotion back in January, and have been allaying people fears and worries ever since, but I’m not stretching to predicting the Oxford v Fleetwood result… I’m good but not that good!
At the risk of looking extremely foolish, I believe we’ll have beaten Coventry quite comfortably last night, so we’ve either got over the promotion finishing line and we’ve all got sore heads from an impromptu party, or we have our toes touching it and the party is delayed for a few days more. Talk about delaying the inevitable! But we’ve waited five years, so three more days aren’t going to hurt.
Of course once this season’s primary aim of promotion is duly achieved, the League One Champions title would be a fitting tribute to this team, this squad, the manager and his staff. It would be a truly remarkable achievement for Chris Wilder to guide two different teams to two different league champions titles in successive seasons, and to also do so after such a poor start to our campaign is actually quite incredible.
We’ve proved by both our results and our performances that we’ve been the best side in this division, and we now need to push on, win our remaining games and make sure the historical records show that we actually were.
Although I’ve been hugely confident for months that we would get promoted, I’d be lying if I said I expected us to achieve it this season. The football side of the club needed stabilising, the fans needed to be brought back onside, and the playing squad needed a radical overhaul.
It was a huge task, make no mistake about that. Chris Wilder’s track record in management suggested that he was more than capable of doing what was needed, and as a Blade himself he also had a natural instinct of how to go about it. Even though this was his first taste of managing at this high a level, I knew that he’d get our club back on track, and we’d at least have a ‘proper’ Blades team to support.
I imagined a passionate and fully committed, enthusiastic side, maybe playing fast and furious football, and even a bit rough around the edges in places. I was ready for that, and to be honest I’d have been more than happy to settle for it. What I wasn’t ready for, and what has totally amazed and delighted me in equal measure has been the sheer quality of our play.
It has quite simply been a revelation and an absolute joy to watch. I’m on record as saying that we’ve played some of the most entertaining and ‘pure’ football that I can remember seeing in my 26 years in Sheffield, and I stick by every word of that. Yes, it’s only in the third tier of league football and maybe the opposition haven’t been that great on occasions, but the way we have dismantled teams and torn them to shreds with our passing and movement has been outstanding.
After all, great technique, with top quality accurate passing and then combined with excellent movement off the ball has very little to do with the quality of the opposition. It’s a style of play we do naturally as a team and it’s what we impose ON our opposition, whoever they are. Teams in League One haven’t been able to cope with it. Next season, let’s see if teams a league higher can.
I’ve just realised we’re talking about the potential of this team in the Championship, yet we’re only in the first week of April and as I write this there’s still six games to go! How good does that feel, and what a season we’ve had.
Thumping wins, unbeaten runs, goals galore, superb football, late drama, thrills and spills, huge home attendances, emerging Blades legends of the future, promotion and possible/probable League Champions….Phew!
Seasons like this don’t come around too often, and this one has been truly special. Make sure you enjoy what’s left of it to the absolute maximum, both on and off the pitch! CHEERS!
Kevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield. @ManorHouse_S18
Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev