Sheffield United: 'This is it' says Chris Wilder as The Blades get set for the new Championship campaign
After eighty-nine days of posturing and politiking, after nearly three months of shadow boxing and statements of intent this, much to Chris Wilder's relief, really is it.
New season, new players and potentially new heroes. But, Sheffield United's manager acknowledged, the same targets, principles and ideas.
"Ever since we've started work again, everybody has been looking forward to the first match," Wilder said. "Everything we've been doing has been geared-up for this. Although what we do over 46 is the most important thing, it'll be great to be back out there at Bramall Lane again."
In truth, Wilder has rarely been away from the stadium as he prepares his squad for another Championship campaign. The time he has invested appears to have paid dividends because, as they gear-up for tomorrow's curtain-raiser against Swansea City, United look in pretty damn good shape. New signings, including John Egan and David McGoldrick, should bring extra guile and experience to a team which emerged as top six contenders last term. Ben Woodburn and Dean Henderson, acquired on loan from Liverpool and Manchester United respectively, the youthful exuberance together with 21-year-old Kean Bryan. Still, perhaps even more importantly for Wilder, plenty of familar faces remain.
"As well as we hope and believe the new lads will do, it's important to remember some really talented lads were already in the building," he said. "People like Jack O'Connell, John Fleck, Leon (Clarke) and Enda (Stevens). I could go on and name plenty of others. They'll all grow with us. That what we are trying to do; build and develop."
"At the end of last season, we sat down and looked at the things we needed to address and I think we've covered those bases," he added. "We want to keep improving and so it was important we did that."
Although United have good reason to be satisfied with their transfer business, achieved despite the on-going wrangle between co-owners Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, one area of concern remains. Captain Billy Sharp and Clarke might have scored 33 goals between them last season, including one apiece at Bristol City on its final day, but Wilder's squad still seems at least a centre-forward light. Hence his interest in Ipswich Town's Martyn Waghorn.
“We’ve still got one good transfer in us,” he said. “We’ve got people in mind but these things take time. And, the lads we’ve got, it shows patience can be required.”