Forget Man Utd and Arsenal but there's a fighting chance for Sheffield United around the corner - Alan Biggs
Sheffield United effectively began their season three games late with a self-inflicted handicap now compounded by errors - and cruel injuries - leaving them bottom of the Premier League. It would be so easy to completely write off the Blades at this point.
But still far too early for that. Only a little over a fifth of the season gone, a gap of just four points to make up. Mind you, when you’ve only got a single point so far, there’s a huge mental block to shift out of the path.
That first win can’t come soon enough. But, for the sake of sanity, let’s look at the next run of games as a block of six. Why? Because realistically United might not trouble the scorers in the first two, even though next visitors Manchester United are in a “crisis” of their own. After that, a trip to Arsenal - good luck!
But after that, three of the following four fixtures have to be regarded as potentially winnable if you are serious about staying up. Home games with Wolves and Bournemouth, either side of a forbidding journey to Brighton, and then a visit to another struggling side in Burnley.
If United were to emerge from that block of six games with even six points, the season would start to have a different complexion. And that would have to be a minimum target. It’s why I don’t think anyone should be pressing the panic button at this point.
In fairness to manager Paul Heckingbottom, who didn’t have anything like a competitive squad until after the first three games had been lost, judgment should be reserved in my opinion.
Should United fail to make inroads on this six-match run, the personal pressure will increase, however much I and others feel he has earned being the man for the job long term. It’s just the way the game is. But I certainly don’t believe he should be thrown overboard if, as probable, he loses the next two.
Wolves, Bournemouth and Burnley are the true yardstick games. Win a couple of those, with the odd draw thrown in, and we could be in fighting chance territory.