Every fan wants to see beautiful Barcelona-esque football. Every fan wants to be entertained.
There comes a point in the season for some teams, though, when that notion goes, or at least should go, out the window...and Sheffield United have reached that stage.
There are nine, ‘normal’ games remaining and hopefully from a United point of view, twelve if you include a final three which would culminate in a Wembley appearance, and having been sat virtually unmoved in fifth place in the League One table for much of the campaign, all Nigel Clough’s side have to do is stay there.
Those detractors, many of them United fans, will state that they shouldn’t be in a precarious position whereby their place in the play-offs is so insecure. The arguments have been trotted out all year and to be quite frank, it’s a viewpoint based on arrogance, paraphrased as ‘we’re Sheffield United, we should be walking this league’. If it was as easy as that the Blades wouldn’t be still here, three years longer than they’d hoped.
For United players themselves, it’s a mentally draining slog with very little praise coming their way no matter what happens week on week. If they lose, or even draw, they are barracked. If they win, there are a lot of people shrugging their shoulders and claiming ‘it should have been more’ or ‘well, you should be winning every week anyway.’ Brickbats abound but few bouquets.
That must be a hugely difficult thing for a player to have to deal with.
Now, however, United are reaching a point of the season that may well be perfect for them. Bearing in mind how tight things are - they are three points from seventh and it’s Barnsley, to whom Clough side travel in a little over a week’s time, who are leading the charge - that may sound like a strange point to make. There are four ‘derbies’ of sorts, altogether with Barnsley, Doncaster, Bradford and Chesterfield in the offing plus games against Crewe and Leyton Orient, both fighting at the other end of the table.
But the fact is, the players have just one thing to worry about now and that’s winning. They should forget all that’s gone on before now; they don’t have to concern themselves with battering teams; their minds shouldn’t be distracted by playing pretty football - we’re now at a stage where it’s a case of ‘go in, get a win and move on’. It may not be easy on the eye for the remainder of the season, but ultimately if all supporters want is to gain promotion, it’s going to be by any means necessary and they have to get on board with that.
And by the time the play-offs do come around, and I remain confident that United will be a part of those, then as has been shown in cup games against big teams, there is an ability in this side to come up trumps on the big stage. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.