Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United column: Now is time to savour the moment

The Bard might have written these words for the Blades, I reckon.

By alan.biggs1
Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 11:10 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 3:46 pm
Blades fans celebrate in the Clubhouse, London Road after watching Leeds draw with Villa on TV at Sunday lunchtime confirming Sheffield Uniteds promotion to the Premier League
Blades fans celebrate in the Clubhouse, London Road after watching Leeds draw with Villa on TV at Sunday lunchtime confirming Sheffield Uniteds promotion to the Premier League

The Bard might have written these words for the Blades, I reckon.“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”William Shakespeare’s improbable debut on this page is timely. Sheffield United’s glorious promotion back to the Premier League has them riding a giant wave. Vital they stay on it.For now, it’s all about enjoying the moment and rightly so. Fulsome tribute was paid here last week. Work hard, play hard is Chris Wilder’s style - and he’s in “full flood” on both counts! But returning to the Premier League isn’t just about status and a cool £200m, although that is plenty to be going on with.It’s more the difference between going a long way forwards or backwards. This, I believe, was a crossroads moment for Sheffield United.Would United have been able to keep Wilder had they missed out? I very much doubt it.It’s now a blissfully hypothetical question. But there has been a strong sense of this being an all-out, all-or-nothing effort.Certainly, amid the strife at the top of the club, it would have been very difficult to recreate the sheer intensity of this season’s effort. Especially in the wake of disappointment and deflation.Wilder knew this and it fuelled his mission to get up this year. Any longer and maybe he would have had to take stock of his own career ambitions rather than risk being undermined by boardroom uncertainty.Now that factor can be shoved aside, if not entirely discounted for the future. There is no way Wilder would choose to miss leading his boyhood club into the Premier League. And if, as you expect, he is substantially rewarded in bonus and contract packages then he has earned every penny.Salary was low on his priority scale in being lured to Bramall Lane - and when he was somewhat belatedly awarded a new deal after promotion to League One.Reaching the Premier League is, of course, the ultimate game-changer... IF United resolve issues at the top which, with a court case looming and no resolution likely until Autumn at the earliest, require more of the same from the owners in terms of a mutual funding compromise.I recall the sliding doors scenario of the 2009 play-off final defeat to Burnley. Then manager Kevin Blackwell, having taken over from Bryan Robson, could have built on an experienced and expensive team had United gone up. Instead, it had to be dismantled and Blackwell was sacked just over a year later.Perhaps Wilder’s biggest achievement is that he has continually strengthened the squad without jeopardising the club’s financial health; indeed making a profit in the market from sales including the £11.5m for David Brooks.Shrewd acquisitions, typically of players on the way up, has seen the value of the squad increase dramatically.The strategy is in place to keep going forward. I can’t see any radical change in the principles governing the club’s target area, as recruitment chief Paul Mitchell has already indicated here.And while Wilder will naturally expect to shop at a higher level, United are ironically fortunate in that the owners are in no position to take anything other than a long-sighted view rather than gamble all on staying up.Fulham splurged £100m after promotion last season, sidelined players who had taken them up and got relegated.By contrast, Norwich are reportedly allocating just £20m in fees and wages for their Premier League recruitment budget.Dropping from the top flight can be a temporary blip if finances are held in check. It took Burnley two promotions to establish themselves in the Premier League. Look at them now.The Blades may be a bigger outfit but Burnley - and Bournemouth - has to be the model. That said, Wilder isn’t going up to come down. That’s simply not in his nature. It’s why, when I interviewed him amid the jubilation of last Saturday’s win over Ipswich, he made a point of raising the importance of resolving the boardroom stand-off.It wasn’t put to him. So it’s a significant early marker in my book amid the strong possibility, whispered backstage for some time, of new owners taking out the current incumbents.But right now, everyone including Wilder - and especially long-time club chief Kevin McCabe - deserve to simply savour the moment.

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Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder celebrates after the final whistle of the win over Ipswich