Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: Why next four games will test true mettle of Chris Wilder's men
Sheffield United will find out how good they really are over the next four matches. But then so will Derby, Stoke, Wigan and Nottingham Forest.
I could have said five matches '“ but it's a bit early to mention the derby, isn't it?
Suffice to say that all four opponents up to the events of Bramall Lane on November 9th will test the Blades' mettle.
On paper, it's their most challenging run so far in a season that sees them leading the table at this point.
But I'm not sure any of the listed opponents will fancy facing Chris Wilder's side. Will they have the same appetite and relish that United certainly have?
That's what happens with a side on a sharply upward curb '“ a 'bring it on' mentality that makes them all the more dangerous.
Certainly, no-one at the Lane will cower from these fixtures, starting at Derby tomorrow and stretching to a trip to Forest after visits from Stoke and Wigan.
Of these sides, I'd expect three to finish in or around the top six.
Wigan could be the odd one out in that, as a newly promoted side, I'm not sure their excellent impetus under the inspirational Paul Cook can be carried all the way, as with United themselves last season.
Stoke, under Gary Rowett, are massively better than their results so far.
Forest spent hugely last summer and have another quality manager in Aitor Karanka. Frank Lampard, a novice in the job, has started well enough with the significant blessing of a fine squad to suggest Derby will be a force.
All those three have a more expensive squad than the Blades (in common with most of the division). But none of them carries a greater sense of belief and purpose.
None of them is as fiercely committed to attack, certainly not the sides of Karanka and Rowett.
Which is not to say Wilder's men will rampage through this run but I'd be surprised if they emerged with fewer than, say, seven points.
That (two wins, a draw and a defeat) would be a decent return. Doubtless Wilder is aiming higher.
We shall see, but I would also be surprised if United entered the derby outside of the top three.
And maybe it's also worth a timely reminder that none of us were really talking above competing for the top six this season. That's still the benchmark of reality for me. To go higher would be a sensational achievement.
It's in that cup-tie kind of mood that Wilder's men will attack this run of games. And attack really is the operative word.