SHEFFIELD UNITED: Great expectations as fans yearn for promotion

Looking ahead: United's Danny Wilson.
Looking ahead: United's Danny Wilson.
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HELL hath no fury like a football fan scorned.

So, having failed to deliver promotion last season, Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson admits his team could incur the wrath of the Bramall Lane crowd unless they threaten a top-six finish this term.

“It’s going to be a big challenge this season,” he said.

“Because the expectation on us will have gone to another level.

“But it’s a challenge we won’t shy away from and one we are looking forward to taking on.

“I think it’s fair to say that the expectation levels weren’t that high last time.

“But they’re going to be absolutely massive now.”

The mood music reverberating around United’s stadium on the eve of Wilson’s second campaign at the helm is in stark contrast to the dirge of a year ago.

Back then, having slid ingloriously out of the Championship on predecessor Micky Adams’ watch, the former Northern Ireland international was being widely tipped to preside over nine months of misery.

Despite seeing circumstances conspire to wreck their hopes of an instant return to the second tier, United recorded a win ratio of 58 per cent and scored 93 goals en route to the League One play-off final with Huddersfield Town.

Their Wembley showdown ended in capital punishment when Simon Grayson’s side triumphed 8-7 on penalties.

Nevertheless, that heartbreak apart, Wilson’s charges went a long way towards repairing the club’s tattered reputation.

By the time United sign off the 2012/13 season with a home game against Preston North End, supporters who only five years ago were watching top-flight competition will demand they have completed the job. Or, at the very least, be on the verge of it.

“If you look around then we’ve got all the in

gredients here,” Wilson acknowledged earlier this year. “A great infrastructure, great crowd and some great people.

“But that doesn’t guarantee you anything and we have to work hard at getting things right on the pitch.

“That, as always, is the

key, the most important thing.”

Having seen their attempts at a quick fix wrecked by situations off their watch, Wilson and assistant Frank Barlow must formulate a different solution to the same problem - how to drag United out of the third

tier.

Budgets have been redrawn and targets identified with several recognisable names almost certain to leave.

Those considered as replacements are, by and large, technically proficient players.

But, despite revealing a pragmatic streak during United’s semi-final double-header with Stevenage, Wilson reaffirmed his commitment to impressing the purists when quizzed on the matter last week.

Administrative staff have also been tasked with ensuring there is no repeat of the situation which saw a flurry of contracts expire soon after United’s derby with Town.

“You’ve got to be able to work hard and dig in,” Wilson said. “If you don’t then you won’t achieve anything. But we play the way that suits us best.”