Alan Biggs: This Sheffield United team is even better than the days of Tony Currie in terms of work ethic and commitment, says Ted Hemsley
Four games without a win but still the same upbeat question. Best Blades football since the Tony Currie team of the early 1970s? Yes, say members of that hallowed side.
But in one respect this current team is actually even better, according to someone well qualified to judge.
It’s also why this former Sheffield United hero is urging the crowd to rally round now that Chris Wilder’s side are having a rocky spell after punching far above their supposed weight.
And while well-worn phrases like work rate have become devalued as a minimum requirement – which it really should be – it’s a fact that even the most talented teams are only consistently successful by always putting in the maximum.
So when Ted Hemsley, a stalwart of the Currie team under John Harris, identifies the foundation of what Wilder and his players have achieved it’s not just some tired cliche.
“The work ethic and the commitment has been the best I’ve seen from any Sheffield United side – and that includes the team I played in,” reckons Hemsley.
“It’s fantastic. I love every minute of the way they play. The lads have entertained the crowd and got them onside.”
The boot is now on the other foot with United’s highly influential midfield axis removed for the next three games, as the suspended John Fleck joins the injured Paul Coutts on the sidelines.
“It’s now time for the supporters to pay a bit back,” Ted insists. “They’ve had it good for a season and a half. Well, now get behind the lads and carry them over the line. The majority are behind them 100% and rightly so.”
It’s the guarantee of that 100% from a team embodying the city in which it plays that should, in a just and fair world, silence the little pockets of moaning and groaning that accompany a few adverse results. While ever United are in the top half of the table, let alone the play-off places, they are far above where the playing budget says they should be.
Long-time Blades chief Kevin McCabe has taken a step back, with joint team owner Prince Abdullah now heavily represented on the football board. But Hemsley still looks to McCabe as arguably the most influential figure.
He added: “I know Kevin and if Chris Wilder needs some financial backing I’ll be amazed if he doesn’t get it – because he’s earned it.”
The sharpest focus is on coping without Coutts, the hub of the side from a deep-lying role until his broken leg. Hemsley reasons: “This was catastrophic for me as the main cog in a well-oiled wheel. But I’m sure Chris will sort it out. I’m always optimistic with these guys and this manager.”
Optimism always beats pessimism anyway.