Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: Could this be the height of Blades' season already?

Hardly a time to be a “glass half-empty” Blade. Or is it? “Eighteen points to go!”That was one social media response when I flagged up that, from last season’s promoted trio, Sheffield United have seven more points than Aston Villa and 11 more than the Norwich team they beat at Carrow Road.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 12:50 pm

“Eighteen points to go!”

That was one social media response when I flagged up that, from last season’s promoted trio, Sheffield United have seven more points than Aston Villa and 11 more than the Norwich team they beat at Carrow Road.

Chris Wilder doesn’t do Twitter but you suspect he might have been tempted to post the same if he did.

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Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder. Pic: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.
Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder. Pic: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Because, at a time when United’s cup runneth over, a flat pint can be better than a frothy one.

And dare I add, that’s without being bitter!

Because it’s possible that this could be the height of the season, right here.

A point on which Wilder would be bound to disagree on the basis that he’s forever wanting more.

Quite right, too, that he and his players should take that view - it’s got them where they are, eighth in the Premier League.

But it’s healthy that some fans aren’t losing sight of the main objective.

It would be unfair for it to be regarded as failure to fall short of anything more.

With Villa at the Lane on Saturday and hopes running riotously beyond expectation, a dose of reality is good.

And maybe it’s just as well that, by popular reputation, those glasses have never been half-full anyway.

The fact is United shouldn’t be where they are; not on their budget and wage bill; not by the yardstick that, in being unable to buy ready-made Premier League players, Wilder clearly targeted potential for development last summer.

He signed players he felt capable of stepping up to help United stay in the top flight - and who had the ability to bring the club back up if they didn’t. Both bases cleverly covered.

So here’s the big point on the way ahead.

It will - or would - take substantial investment in the January window to seize this unexpected window of opportunity and maintain the momentum.

Wilder has talked of strengthening “key positions.”

What if Chris Basham had been suspended for three matches rather than have his red card overturned by VAR last Sunday?

What if Jack O’Connell was injured?

Do United have any replicating alternative for their famed overlapping centre-backs?

What if George Baldock or Enda Stevens, both simply outstanding at wing-back, were ruled out?

Most of United’s team has been constant and unchanging, whether by conditioning or luck, or a bit of both.

And so to John Fleck, also close to irreplaceable.

Arguments there for Ollie Norwood and John Lundstram also - not to mention centre-half kingpin John Egan.

That’s before we even get on to some outstanding performers up front - or discuss the prohibitively-priced prolific scorer every team needs but few can afford.

So it would take serious money to strengthen and improve what United have, another huge tribute to the management.

Without that, and being realistic for perspective, avoiding relegation is still the true measure of this season.

In other words, going from 22 points to beyond 40.

No reason, of course, not to be confident and this column firmly tipped the Blades to stay up from the off.

But it’s important for perspective to keep hopes in check and that includes aiming for a higher yield at home where United have suffered all four of their defeats - while astonishingly remaining unbeaten away.

Wilder would have expected it to be more the other way around.

And I doubt even he thought he’d been looking down on most of the division at any stage.

These are special times.

An opportunity not to be lost.