Alan Biggs: This should be Sheffield United's goal...but don't be surprised if they better it

Fourth bottom upwards? You’re taking it as a Sheffield United fan, aren’t you?

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 1:16 pm
Chris Wilder will be under no illusions as to the task that awaits his team in their second season in the Premier League. Andrew Yates/Sportimage

Which is a slight but significant change of tone from a column that last summer confidently predicted Sheffield United more than surviving in the Premier League.

After far exceeding even that with a wonderful ninth place on returning to the top flight, there will be those expecting at least as much again. A minority, let’s hope.

I don’t do pre-season pessimism but a sense of perspective forces a subtly different view this time.

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Hope to be wrong, of course, and nothing Chris Wilder or this group of players achieved should surprise anyone. It’s in fairness to them, in their refusal to accept limits, that we should re-assess what is success for the club at this stage.

For me, it is being a Premier League outfit, pure and simple. And yes, I think they will be again at this time next year.

United, and the way they go about it, are less likely to take other teams by surprise this season - not that they should have done in the last one.

There is such an incredible level of ignorance about what goes on outside the top flight bubble that what was hailed as a “revolutionary” style of play was actually several years old.

Of course, knowing it and counteracting it have proved two different things and the Wilder philosophy is “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

There might be tactical variations but I think we can expect the Blades to stay very much on the front foot - as their signings indicate, fitting the template of the existing style.

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What can’t be recreated quite so readily is the sheer, soaring enthusiasm of a venture into the unknown, of conquering the odds. No-one’s tipping United to go down this time - so the nucleus of this squad has to generate its own impetus.

Crucially, Wilder has freshened it and provided competition for those fundamental, near fixtures at wing back and centre back.

One player aged 20, two of 23 and a 19-year-old loanee. Jayden Bogle, Max Lowe, and the imminently expected Oliver Burke fit the expedient Blades model perfectly. As does talented teenager Ethan Ampadu.

It’s a model with a long line of success behind it - O’Connell, Fleck, Egan, Baldock, Stevens, Osborn etc.

We can virtually guarantee another exciting campaign, all the more so when fans are allowed back inside Bramall Lane.

I can see close contests, home and away, throughout. The challenge will be squeezing out those extra goals to tip tight games.

That’s the hardest and most expensive area to strengthen, almost prohibitively so. But it doesn’t stop a team having a real go - as this one always will.