Is the ‘Great Escape’ really possible?
Even actor Steve McQueen, in his hayday in that famous 1963 war film, would struggle to get out of the mire Sheffield United are in.
Everybody outside Bramall Lane has written off United’s chances of remaining in The Championship.
But whatever anybody says or speculates, it comes down to the hard statistics that will make up the final dozen matches.
The next to bottom Blades currently have a paltry 29 points.
From the 36 remaining points up for grabs, Sheffield United need in the order of 21 to stay up - somewhere around the 50 point level.
Last season Sheffield Wednesday went down to League One with 47 points, Scunthorpe surviving above them with 52.
Before that Norwich were relegated with 46. Coventry dropped down with 53 in 2007-8.
Hull and QPR did the same the previous two seasons (49 and 50 respectively.)
Looking forward to the current 2011 campaign, you don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that United will have to perform hugely better against the majority of the 12 teams concerned than they have against those same opponents earlier in the season.
So far, the Blades have lost six, drawn three and won only three against this select dozen.
First up for them on Saturday afternoon is the away leg of this season’s Portsmouth encounters.
Back in September, a Ched Evans’ goal saw the Blades through to a 1-0 win over Pompey.
Victory that day delivered them a safe 14th place in the table - their second highest position since the campaign started.
Three days later, on March 8, they will host Nottingham Forest, again a side they did well against last September, tying 1-1 at the City Ground, Richard Cresswell’s goal sealing the point.
After the forthcoming Forest clash, it’s off to Watford and Leeds United (both previous 1-0 defeats) and league leaders QPR, a side that inflicted a 3-0 mauling on United in the second league match of the season, a result which cost Kevin Blackwell his job.
Halfway through the next 12 games lies a home date with Middlesbrough, who pipped United 1-0.
Then it’s Preston (1-0 win) followed by Bristol City, who have put three unanswered goals past the Blades already this term.
The remaining fixtures are Reading (1-1) Barnsley (0-1) and second-place Swansea, the last team United defeated, on December 18.
The figures tell their own story.
Only an astounding turn-around in form can save Micky Adams’ men.
February saw a meagre two points harvested from seven games for the Blades. It was the same tally from January.
These are the months when the survival battle was, perhaps, lost - it coincided with United dipping first to 21st position, then eventually slipping into the drop zone. March and April have to be a whole hell of a lot better.
But you never know. A win at Portsmouth, a team historically, United do well against, could be the start of the Great Escape.