No distractions for Sheffield United, star defender insists, as Premier League return looms
Sheffield United are not thinking about the possibility of qualifying for Europe next term, centre-half John Egan has insisted, as Chris Wilder’s players prefer to focus solely on Wednesday’s return to Premier League action at Aston Villa instead.
After a three month break because of the Covid-19 pandemic, United will travel to the West Midlands knowing a win would see them climb to fifth - two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea - with only nine matches remaining.
Having defied pre-season predictions they were destined for relegation following their promotion from the Championship, Wilder’s side now find themselves battling for the right to face the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid rather than survival.
Although Egan recognises the magnitude of the prize on offer, he said: “All we’re looking at is the next game, nothing else. That’s the mentality we’ve got here.
“And then, when that’s done, the only thing we’ll be bothered about is the one after.
“It’s been an amazing journey so far. But, the way we do things here, the game coming up is the only thing that’s ever on the agenda.”
Capped eight times by the Republic of Ireland, Egan is a member of the squad which climbed out of the second tier 14 months ago - only two years after lifting the League One title. United handed new contracts to midfielder Oliver Norwood and captain Billy Sharp last week and, after being invited to open talks before the fixture calendar was suspended, Egan is expected to follow suit soon.
“We’ve come a long way in a short space of time,” he said. “Now we’re competing for something else. But the mantra here has always been ‘take it to the next game.’ That’s not going to change now.”
United were unbeaten in six when the competition ground to a halt but Egan, dismissing suggestions their momentum could be threatened, added: "Normally we'd be having a bit of time off right now but we know what we're in this for. We wanted to finish the season and we've just got on with things, working in different ways."