So I’m sat here on a Sunday morning after our fourth away league game in a row, and we’ve just been held to a draw against a poor Ipswich side from all the reports I’ve seen and heard.
Of course we wanted a win, but we’ll take a point and be happy with it... or we should be happy anyway. However, we’re Blades and let’s be honest, some of us like a moan don’t we? But have we got anything too much to moan about? Really? In my opinion, NO. Absolutely nothing in fact, and here’s why.
At the start of the season, I organised a Blades ‘End of Season Prediction’ competition for the SUFC supporting customers of my venue The Manor House, where people were invited to choose final finishing position, points, goals scored and conceded. The results from over 150 entries was that the most popular final position was 12th, and the average final position was 10th with 65 points.
No-one predicted we’d go down, three put us as runner-up and only one person thought we’d win the league, though we suspect a few pints of San Miguel may have been a factor in his choice! For the record I predicted 10th with 61 points.
So, my point is, backed up by actual, carefully thought out predictions by knowledgeable supporters (there is a meal-for-two prize up for grabs for the ‘closest to’ winner) that virtually all season we have FAR exceeded our expectations of this team and we sit here today in ninth position, with a home game in hand against second-bottom Burton, which if won will leave us only TWO points behind the two teams in fifth & sixth play-off spots.
If the season stopped this week, I’m sure we’d look back at it with an enormous sense of pride and achievement, with the many highs far outweighing the very few lows. There is still a feeling amongst the club management and players that we are four or five points light of what our performances should really have got us. The combination of a bit of bad luck at times, together with outstanding quality from talented opponents has played a part, and certainly when you think back to the Norwich, Birmingham and Villa home games, to only get one point from three very good performances was a travesty.
But it is what it is, and we are where we are. We’ve got 56 points and we’ve ten games to go, six of which are at home, and although Cardiff & Middlesbrough will be a tough proposition, we’ve absolutely nothing to fear given our hugely impressive home performances this season. Brentford away will be a test, but visiting Barnsley & Birmingham? The Blues might be down by then and I’d expect four points from these two games as a minimum to be honest.
All the teams around us will also play each other and points will be inevitably be dropped. What do we need then in terms of points to grab a play-off place? Over the last 20 years in the Championship, the average points for the team in 6th place is 74 points, with a high of 80 last year by Fulham and a low of 68 a few years ago when Leicester sneaked in. It could actually culminate in a potential play-off decider down in Bristol in our final match and I’d strongly fancy us to get a result if need be.
In short then, there is absolutely EVERYTHING still to play for, and with Chris Wilder driving the team on, I’m in no doubt whatsoever that we’ll be playing at full-tilt, full-on, full-power for every single game this season. It’s what Chris will demand, and during this crucial run-in period it’s the absolute minimum requirement, as the potential prize at stake is too good an opportunity to give anything less.
We as a team, and also certain individuals, couldn’t quite maintain the exceptional form and results that took us to the top spot earlier in the season, but you feel with the likes of David Brooks coming back to full fitness, Billy Sharp back scoring and leading from the front, Leon Clarke waaaaay overdue a few goals, and the new signings settling in and chomping at the bit for a chance, we are in a good place. A very good place actually.
Because the place is beautiful downtown Bramall Lane, Sheffield S2... and it’s been very good place indeed for us fans to be at over the past 20 months, and I get the feeling it’s not going to stop anytime soon. The ‘feel-good’ factor all around the club is most certainly back, there’s a regular 27,000+ fans flocking to watch us play & we are a respected force in the division once more. With a final push (and maybe a modicum of overdue good fortune?) our season may just end in another exciting climax, and this being Sheffield United FC don’t rule anything out as we have learnt over the years to expect the unexpected!
Finally, in a strange anomaly, not one single person in my Manor House competition predicted we’d finish fifth... mmmm, I wonder!