Sheffield United 1-0 Crystal Palace: 'That was for the people...the ones who stuck by us'
This wasn't a football match. It was an occasion. A reward, Chris Wilder insisted afterwards, for all those supporters who had stuck by their team during the dark days. Those long periods in the wilderness when Premier League football seemed light years, not 39 months, away.
Predictably, when he arrived inside Bramall Lane's media suite to face the world's media, the Sheffield United manager found himself being quizzed on his own relationship with the club he has shaken back into life. But Wilder, a lifelong fan and former Blades player himself, wanted to talk about the people who had flooded through the turnstiles to witness this famous old ground’s return to the big time. Even more, you suspected, than John Lundstram's match-winning goal.
"I know why I get asked about it," Wilder said. "I get why people want to talk about me growing up a stone's throw away from here, playing for Sheffield Boys and all of that. I understand why you guys want to talk about Billy (Sharp), our captain, also being a fan and what that brings.
"But that out there, that was for all those folk who stuck by us through the bad times. The times when people probably never thought they'd see us on this type of stage again."
Lundstram's strike - after Crystal Palace's Vicente Guaita had diverted Luke Freeman's angled drive into his path - proved the defining moment of United's first top-flight outing at home since 2007. But there were other turning points too; particularly during the closing stages as Roy Hodgson's side went in search of an equaliser. Tired, fatigued and yes, a little bit flustered, under an aerial bombardment, the sound of the crowd roaring them on helped United summon both the energy and the courage to get the job done.
Wilder, who inherited a squad which had just finished mid-table in the third tier when he was appointed three years ago, admitted he had been touched by the sight - and the sound - of his players and their followers working as one.
"Listen, if you follow Sheffield United, you're not doing it for the glory," Wilder said. "You're not doing it because you expect to see your team winning the title or the European Cup. You're doing it because that's what you do, because it's in your blood."
"This club can go anywhere," he continued. "And it has done in the past. So to be back here, this is for all of those who stuck by us through the bad times. I know better than anyone what these people have been through in the past, and what they've been served up at times. This was for them."
After disrupting Palace's rhythm during the opening stages, United grew into the contest with David McGoldrick and Jack O'Connell going close either side of Lundstram's effort. George Baldock also delivered a tour-de-force performance at wing-back as the hosts built upon last weekend’s draw with AFC Bournemouth.
"I knew what the atmosphere would be like," Wilder said. "So we had to manage the game and I thought we did that very well."
Sheffield United: Henderson, Baldock, Stevens, Basham, Egan, O'Connell, Norwood, Fleck (L Freeman 29), Lundstram, McGoldrick (Jagielka 89), Robinson (McBurnie 58). Not used: Moore, Sharp, Osborn, Besic.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Dann, Meyer (Schlupp 65), Townsend (McCarthy 70), Zaha, Benteke, McArthur (Wickham 82), Kelly, Not used: Hennessy, Kouyate, Ayew, Cahill.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).