Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: The simple truth about the buoyant Blades ... from a man who knows

Functional, organised, workmanlike, direct. Are these descriptions disrespectful only to Sheffield United – or the whole of football?

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 11:09 pm
Chris Wilder, manager of Sheffield United (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Chris Wilder, manager of Sheffield United (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Because it strikes me there’s nothing especially wrong with any of these traits – particularly if you are fifth in the Premier League.

Of course, we all know Chris Wilder’s Blades amount to so much more and, after a truly exceptional start by a promoted team, it’s no wonder the ignorance of some high-profile pundits has left so much anger in its wake.

The national media eye has been slow to open on United’s built-in quality and sophistication; caught napping by past perceptions of the club. But the more dismissive comments are insulting on a far wider scale.

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There is so much nonsense talked about styles of play in football.

So what if the Blades HAD founded their excellent start in the top flight purely on organisational grit and resolve?

Wouldn’t they have been entitled to do just that based on their financial handicap?

They are inevitably towards the bottom of the spending league, despite the masking effect of a relatively ambitious £40 million outlay last summer.

And for all the widespread failure to recognise some of the finery of United’s football, there is perhaps now a developing blindness to their earthier qualities.

Here’s some hard-headed common sense on the subject from Sean Dyche, with whom it was a pleasure to chat after his Burnley side were hammered at Bramall Lane this month.

Dyche’s establishment of a small-town club in the Premier League is, in some ways, a benchmark for Wilder who admits he “will have done unbelievably well” to last so long at this level.

There is much mutual admiration between them.

So when the Burnley boss suggests Wilder’s “not bothered” how United gather the necessary points, just as long as they do, it’s worth listening. Dyche told me: “The thing I’ve liked about them this season is that, for all this talk about overlapping centre backs, he’s not bothered, trust me.

“I’ve seen him beat Arsenal with 200 passes ... that’s just simple, effective football.

“I think he’s open-minded (in the way) to win and get enough points as he can. Rightly so, by the way.”

Naturally, front foot remains the preferred method, if not always.

Dyche, who insists United are “absolutely capable” of emulating Burnley’s durability, added: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that they’ll have a real go.

“Chris’s teams do anyway.

“There’s no reason why they can’t do well this season.

“They’re showing that in the early part.

“The challenge they’ve got is A SEASON; the biggest challenge in the Premier League. You can have great spells, you can have tough spells. It’s a season’s work – as I know from the journey we’ve been on.”

Sage words from a man who knows.

It follows that if United have to lean occasionally on qualities for which they have been stupidly derided, then they should be applauded equally for that.