Sheffield United: ‘These boys are legends’
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, believes his players deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as some of Bramall Lane's greatest ever names after watching them reach the Premier League.
Speaking after Leeds' draw with Aston Villa meant their promotion from the Championship was confirmed, Wilder insisted it is impossible to over-state the achievements of a team which was competing at League One level only two seasons ago.
Twenty-four hours earlier, after a 2-0 win over Ipswich Town had all but secured a top two finish, there were emotional scenes inside United's stadium as the 51-year-old, together with his squad and coaching staff, celebrated with a sell-out home crowd.
Reflecting on the moment their place among English football's elite was effectively secured, Wilder, a lifelong supporter of the club, said: "You saw the scenes out there. They, the fans, have a team to be unbelievably proud of and, hopefully, will rank with Tony Currie and the boys from 1971, the one Harry (Dave Bassett) took through the divisions in the Nineties and the lads Neil (Warnock) put together the last time we were there.
"I believe this group to be right up there and talked about in the same breath."
United, whose campaign concludes at Stoke City on Sunday, have not rubbed shoulders with the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea since 2007, when Warnock's side were relegated in controversial circumstances following the Carlos Tevez Affair.
Currie, the former England midfielder, witnessed goals from Scott Hogan and Jack O'Connell put Ipswich to the sword while Bassett remains one of Wilder's closest confidants after managing him during his own spell in charge of United.
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"I am part of a fantastic group," a visibly emotional Wilder continued. "Some I inherited. That is not always easy because they did not know what I was about.
"Some I brought with me, (assistant) Alan (Knill) and Matt (Prestridge, United's coach). Together, the staff have been amazing. They work away from the lights. I am here and the face of the club, on bad days and good days.
"There is a lot more to the group, the staff. I am amazingly proud to lead that staff. They give everything, as do the players. The supporters see that and, hopefully, it continues."
After leading United out of the third tier at the first time of asking, Wilder has now masterminded promotions out of all three English Football League divisions and also the Conference following spells in charge of Oxford and Northampton Town before being appointed in 2016.
"When I first came in, we had to change the mindset of the players," he admitted. "We had to give the supporters something to hang on to. We certainly did that in terms of our approach.
"We had a fantastic first season, historic. We then went again, keeping the same approach last season. To achieve what we have achieved is great. This is a special time to be a Blade."