Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United Column: Financial imbalance difficult for Blades to bridge – so let’s enjoy them giving it a go!

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There’s a confusion. Are we judging Sheffield United on the standards of a top two team? On the basis of that being where they are - and where they intend to stay? Which they clearly do. And which their performances continually justify.

Or are we judging them on the yardstick of being massive over-achievers? Which they certainly are. And which the manager was clearly referring to when he pointed in midweek to 50 points being the first target - to avoid relegation!

See what I mean? And that confusion crystallised at Pride Park last Saturday evening.

As Chris Wilder often rightly reminds us, the Blades - on their lower half budget - are upsetting the laws of finance in the Championship.

As he is also fond of highlighting - again rightly - they, and their fans, can’t be arrogant enough to believe they can dominate good teams with good players for 90 minutes. Against Stoke on Tuesday they did!

Unquestionably Derby also are a good team with good players. They finally bossed United for half a game and won, after being on the back foot earlier.

Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder

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Cue criticism from the manager for his players. Again justified for a second half switch-off. Justified also in terms of driving standards forward - and indicative of a top two intent.

It has to be that way. You have to aim high. But you can still see the aforementioned confusion. I feel it in how to fairly pitch this. You can’t have it both ways.

Like the manager, I believe in honesty. Top six is as high as I’ve been prepared to pitch it in order to beat down unfair over-expectation. Still feel that way; realistically, a fine achievement in itself.

And where you have to be concerned is that supporters (some) don’t get spoilt. The hope is they will give the team a break in a dodgy spell, which is inevitable sometime; that they make allowances for things like the dip at Derby.

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And while it did look that Frank Lampard’s team were there for the taking, let’s be clear. Derby are a potent side, as they should be on a much higher budget.

To suggest otherwise, as a few frustrated Blades fans did on social media, is to belittle their own team over the course of a close match.

Let’s be real. Wilder’s side has to play at or close to the maximum, most weeks, to bridge the financial gap. A tall order if not impossible.

On Tuesday they certainly did. As compelling a 90 minute performance as United have produced ended with a £65m plus Stoke sneaking a 1-1 draw.

In four halves of football against some of the best, costliest players in the division, United won three and emerged with just a single point.

That’s where the financial imbalance tells in what Wilder calls “big moments.” I’d suggest everyone just enjoys the ride and gives the team the maximum they give us.