Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has said his players deserve their place in Bramall Lane’s history books after being crowned League One champions.
Wilder’s team enters this afternoon’s game against Bradford City assured of the title after opening-up an unassailable 12 point lead over second-placed Bolton Wanderers.
There were jubilant scenes at United’s training complex when, 24 hours after their 3-0 victory over Port Vale, Phil Parkinson’s side slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Oldham Athletic on Saturday afternoon.
Wilder, whose squad has won 27 and drawn 10 of its 43 fixtures so far this term, told The Star: “We’ve made sure the lads savour it because they deserve everything that comes their way. Seasons like this don’t come a long very often in football and, in years to come when they’ve all retired, they’ll look back on this one with amazing memories. It will live with all of us forever and the same goes for the fans too.”
“But I tell you what,” Wilder added. “I don’t think anyone can argue they haven’t been the best group in the division. I think it would have been a travesty, to be fair, if they hadn’t finished first because, all along, that’s what they’ve driven themselves on to do.”
The facts and figures behind United’s campaign have, as Wilder admitted, been phenomenal. Despite failing to win any of their opening four matches following his appointment in May, United are preparing to face City as the highest goalscorers in the country, unbeaten in 14 matches and averaging over two points per game.
Wilder, a lifelong supporter of the South Yorkshire club and former player, said: “Of course we’ve let the lads celebrate getting promoted. Why shouldn’t we? They’ve worked so hard to get here and, if you can’t enjoy success when it comes along then I think that’s pretty poor. Nothing should take away or overshadow what they’ve done. Nobody can take anything away from this group. It’s there in black and white; they have been the best in the competition. They’ve now written themselves into the history of this great football club. We told them right from the start what would happen here if we got it going again and now, with the amazing backing we get from the supporters, they can actually experience it.”
Nevertheless, despite toasting their achievement, Wilder insisted United will be “right at it” for the visit of Stuart McCall’s men.
“Bradford, like us, are a proper football club,” he said. “A club that also goes about its work in the right way and with total and utter honesty. Stuart is someone I’ve got the utmost respect for, the same as I have his club. They’re proper people there, just like we’ve got here.”