Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: How Chelsea display showed that the Blades aren't in the Premier League to make up the numbers
Visits to places like Stamford Bridge are billed as a “big day’ out” for Sheffield United but the players are treating them as “business as usual.”
That’s the way John Egan described them to this column in advance of last weekend’s trip to Chelsea. And it’ll be the same for the two Merseyside clubs later this month, Everton at Goodison Park followed by Liverpool at Bramall Lane.
Of course, it’s standard talk up to a point. Being professional, not being distracted by gazing at the view. And not giving yourself an excuse in advance by casting yourself as a minnow against a giant.
That last is the big one. You sense a surging belief in Chris Wilder’s squad, forged by the manager himself, that we should not be talking about the Blades in cup-tie terms, of giantkilling and upsetting the odds. Or, for that matter, of accepting a point away from home, even if that is realistically a good return.
There’s been much talk of caution and tinkering with the system, but ultimately it’s not actions like this that have got United where they are today. So being positive has to be at the core of what they do.
Defensive kingpin Egan puts it like this: “Obviously it’s good to be going to the big places but we’re not in this league to make the numbers up. We’re not here to go anywhere and enjoy the day.
“We’re here to get points on the board and do as well as we think we can. So it’s business as usual whoever we’re playing ... and whoever we’re playing away in the Premier League the goal is three points.”
It means all the gushing about going to the country’s football palaces is gone, swilled away with the beer and champagne of the promotion party.
When Egan says “business as usual” he applies the same to United’s now-famed overlapping centre backs.
And he reveals the ploy is constantly being fine-tuned in training, not left to operate through muscle memory as a skill like riding a bike.
“We work on it a lot, shape and stuff,” says Egan.
“A lot’s been made about the system and we play it well. How I have to stay at home and mind the house whenever everyone’s bombing on.
“But, you know, it’s not as chaotic as it looks. There’s a method to the madness.
“We all know our jobs; we’ve got good players and a good manager. The system is really good coaching, everything combined.
“All seems to work well. That’s why we got promoted and why we’ve started the season well enough.”
And clearly the way they intend to continue.