Seeing as this is a football column written by an ex-footballer about football for football fans, let’s get the actual football out of the way first!
We won again, for the seventh game in a row, took our unbeaten run to 17 matches, and we got to the milestone of 100 points. Billy Sharp scored his 30th goal of the season, Kieran Freeman got his incredible 11th and Daniel Lafferty notched the winner. We scored another three goals for the fourth game running and we finished as League One champions streets ahead of the others.
There are a mountain of other football related records we’ve broken and remarkable stats out there from this season, and there’s plenty of time to reflect on it all through the summer as we eagerly await the Championship in August.
But on Saturday against Chesterfield, the actual game was a bit of a sideshow. It was 90 minutes of action that in truth we could have all done without as we’d achieved everything we’d needed to in previous weeks. We’d already partied long and hard, sang all the songs, boozed on the beers, and roared the rooftops off various stadiums, towns and pubs along the way as our promotion party finally kicked into top gear after five years of chugging along in first and second and then being in reverse last season!
To be brutally honest, a few of the players looked as if they were still in that lower gear and they’d downed one or ten too many beers over the past couple of weeks as at times we looked well off the pace against a lively Chesterfield team, but I don’t think many Blades fans minded too much. One fan did though. His name was Chris Wilder, and I’m told he delivered the mother of all half-time rollockings to the players, and demanded the application and intensity which has characterised our season, and his management of it.
To their credit, the players responded and just about saw the job through. The final whistle seemed to take an eternity to arrive, and if the ref had blown it ten minutes too early, it would have suited everyone. Compared to the exciting, dramatic and super quality football we’d been treated to this season, this largely forgettable game was over, and then indeed instantly forgotten.
Because we had other far more important business after the game. It was a date with a trophy. A first date for thousands of Blades, and only the second date for many thousands from a slightly more mature generation! Cue celebratory scenes that will live long in the memory and these days, long on the phones and electronic gadgets of us all.
Cue also amazing scenes from the bars, pubs and clubs from all corners of our great Steel City as the Promotion Party morphed effortlessly into a Champions' Party led extremely well indeed I must say, by the players themselves! The past few days have been a true test of their stamina and from the evidence I’ve seen and heard I’m happy to report that they’ve undoubtedly won another title in the drinking division. They’ve won that one by a mile too, although with Chris Wilder leading from the front once more, we didn’t expect any different! On and off the pitch, these boys are sheer class. Enjoy Las Vegas chaps. You’ve earned it.
For the players then, it’s a well-earned holiday, and a chance to rest, relax and recuperate over the summer. For us fans however, it’s business as usual as we return to our daily lives and some kind of normality albeit armed with some wonderful memories of a truly wonderful season. But they’ll be something missing for thousands of us Blades this summer as we’ve reconnected to these players and the management team so much that there will be a huge red and white void in our lives in the coming weeks.
No more fabulously entertaining football to be watched. No more goals, no more wins. The magic hats will be packed away and the Blades scarves hung up. This summer the T-shirts will be proudly worn, the SUFC towels will be triumphantly placed on the sun beds, and the stories and memories will keep us going no doubt, but let’s face it, we can’t wait for the whole show to get going again... we want Championship football and we want it now!
We’ve been there before of course, a while ago maybe, but most of us still remember it. It’ll be new to many of our younger fans, and new to some of our players as well. In fact, it’ll also be new to our manager. It won’t matter though, as I believe that this club is now more than ready to take the next step up the football ladder, both on and off the pitch. It could well be the start of an exciting new era for our club as we’ve finally combined all the attributes need for success.
We have the awesome collective power of our fans with the ‘feel-good’ factor combined with boardroom direction also giving us the needed financial factor. We have driven and proven successful management. We have quality players, and will recruit more when needed, with an outstanding youth Academy system as back up. The framework is in place, let’s build on it.
But most of all, we are now united. Fans, players, directors, management and staff, all working together, all as one and all united. One club, one team, one United. One Sheffield United.
We’re not on our way back. We ARE back…and this time, we’re here to stay.
Kevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield. @ManorHouse_S18. Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev