Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United column: Why Blades need have no fear of the Premier League

“Nothing to lose” is one of the most misleading sayings in football – of which we’re all guilty from time to time.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 08 May, 2019, 16:06
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, right, and assistant Alan Knill

Sheffield United, for instance, have plenty to lose next season and the bookies are already convinced they will do just that.

But that’s all the more reason why, in terms of their approach to the Premier League, the Blades really do have “nothing to lose” from attacking it.

This column has been in touch with a Blades managerial legend to ask these questions: Should Chris Wilder and co stick to the rampaging style that’s got them two promotions? And can they succeed with it in the top flight?

Dave Bassett’s answer to those is an unequivocal “yes” to the first and a qualified “yes” again to the second. The double promotion-winning, Premier League-surviving boss has no doubt either that Wilder’s early declaration on that score is not mere bravado.

Because “success” for so many is simply staying in the Premier League, the division is stifled by it.

Bassett reckons United will be a welcome antidote to the suffocating caution gripping an unhealthy number of clubs at the top level.

Besides, attacking football is in the DNA at Bramall Lane.

Look back at the best teams of the past five decades and all sought to entertain – in different ways.

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There was the swashbuckling era of Currie and Woodward under a contrastingly quiet quiet but steely character in John Harris ... the full-frontal assault of the Bassett days ... and the Warnock style which, though less refined than the current team, demanded taking the game to the opposition and, in Neil’s oft used words, “playing with a smile on our faces.”

Functional, formula stuff – of a type which Bassett feels there is too much in the Prem – doesn’t work in S2.

Nor is it what the fans want or expect. “A lot of the games I see are ponderous and boring,” says Harry. “It’s not entertainment because many of the sides don’t entertain. There’s so much emphasis on staying up.”

Survival will be at the forefront of United’s thinking, too, but Wilder and Alan Knill will be even more mindful of what has put them in this position. So will the players.

Bassett added: “They believe in it. They do it well. They should stick to it. When we went up in 1990 it took us a while to settle but we didn’t sit back. Then we got going and went for it. We were positive and you might as well have a go. If this team finds itself at the bottom Chris might have to take a look at it.

“But you go with what you’ve got and what you believe in. Obviously you can’t go gung-ho at places like Manchester City or you get picked off. But I’ve noticed the Blades being a bit cuter away from home in the Championship anyway. When in front, they’ve closed it out more. But at Bramall Lane you go for it. There’s no point changing something that’s successful.”

Skipper Billy Sharp echoed that on my Sheffield Live show. “It’s an inexperienced bunch of lads for the Premier League but we’re not going to be fearful of it,” he said. “We’ll give it a right good go.”

Just as they certainly did in their civic celebrations on Tuesday. On and off the field, this is a team and club determined to enjoy not only the present but that supposedly fearful future too.