Kevin Gage's Sheffield United Column: Why I feel the Premier League-bound Blades are on the verge of something truly special under Chris Wilder
In the shouted words of Vivian, the punk character of the anarchic 1980s TV show ‘The Young Ones’ - “God I’m bored….BORED BORED BORED.”
As the older readers of this column will recall, he then goes on to smash his furniture up with a cricket bat!
Now, Mrs Gage will no doubt be relieved to hear that I’m not quite at the home-destruction stage yet, but it’s been fourt long weeks since the final Blades game and I’ll admit there’s a huge red and white striped void in my life at the moment.
And the new season is still EIGHT WEEKS away! (sigh). How the hell do we get through that?
Yes, there’s been a couple of decent play-off games (delighted for the Villa, by the way) with some minor European cup finals apparently, plus there’s the Women’s World Cup finals soon.
But to be honest, after the incredible euphoria we all felt as the season ended in such a spectacular triumph, we were always going to endure a bit of a football hangover through the close season, weren’t we?
And talking of hangovers, if you got well and truly ‘Stearmaned’ you no doubt felt the consequences the next day, and if you’re STILL celebrating wildly & singing the Allez Allez Allez song after a few too many pints, then I take my magic hat off to you.
But your time to suffer will come, I’m sure… you’ll feel worse than a Leeds fan after a play-off, in fact!
But of course in this social media age, although the actual football pauses for breath, the football related news, views, gossip, lies, tittle-tattle, opinion, etc doesn’t ever end. We get a constant stream of information fed to us whether we want it or not.
This close season is something quite different though. I get the distinct feeling, from my conversations with fellow Blades, that not only have we achieved something special by actually getting promoted to the Premier League, we are on the verge of something potentially very special with regard to our future.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not predicting that we waltz straight into the top six next season, but there seems to be a feeling of absolute confidence amongst us fans that this core group of players, with a few quality additions, and with Chris Wilder leading and managing from the front, we could cause quite a stir next season.
Yes, we’d all accept fourth from bottom and therefore survival in our first season if you offered us it right now, but I don’t think anyone on the football playing and managing/coaching staff will be thinking on those terms.
I think they are right not to. Because I think we are better than that… a lot better actually, and I’ll think we’ll surprise a few of the established names next season with our no-nonsense attitude and approach to games of football.
Now as soon as hear or see the words ‘no-nonsense’ and ‘attitude’ it sometimes takes you back to the last couple of times we competed in the top division, as those words, along with plenty of similar others(!) were often used to describe our style of play.
In 2005/06 there wasn’t a great deal of finesse about Neil Warnock’s promotion team but they certainly got the job done. They ground it out with the likes of Ade Akinbiyi and Neil Shipperley putting themselves about up front, with Nick Montgomery doing similar behind them in midfield.
The previous promotion team was the 1990 Dave Bassett one, and I think we can all agree that the word finesse didn’t ever get a mention in that team! But again, Bassett knew what was required. They were ruthlessly effective and got the job done.
However, in terms of playing style, this current United team as about as far away from those two promotion sides as you could possibly get! It could be argued that our style of play actually suits the more composed, possession-based style practised by most of the Premier League teams.
Our defence last season was rock-solid and we built our success from that firm foundation, and if we can re-sign Dean Henderson it will be a huge boost for everyone at the club, both on and off the pitch.
With regard to our playing strength, I think we have at the very least half a dozen players in our current team who have the ability to comfortably make the step up to the top level and perform there, week in week out, plus another few players who could ‘do a job’ for us, as and when required.
As I’ve already stated above, with two or three quality additions we could definitely have an impact next season. We’ll have to battle hard to get these in-demand players and potential signings to the club, as money talks and we won’t be offering the highest wages I’m sure.
You’d hope that players will be aware of the team spirit, camaraderie and togetherness of this squad and think to themselves “I want to be a part of that”. It’s a short career and yes, you want to earn good wages, but players also want to feel at home and enjoy going in to work too.
And of course the absolute key person in all of this excitement and speculation about the coming season is our manager. He certainly does lead from the front and sets the tone to create that wonderful sense of togetherness, both in the dressing room and in the stands.
I’m not going to bore everyone by listing his qualities once more, as the League Managers Association ‘Manager of the Year’ award sat on his mantlepiece at home does that for me, but this one fact fills me the supreme confidence that under his guidance, we’ll be perfectly okay:
In 18 years as a football club manager, across five divisions, Chris Wilder has never suffered a relegation. It’s a quite amazing record and trust me, he’s not going to break it anytime soon.
Bring the new season on. Only eight weeks to wait now...
Kevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield. Twitter: @ManorHouse_S18
Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev