Billy Sharp knows exactly what Sheffield United require to prosper in the Championship.
Fortunately it is something, thanks to last season’s results, they already possess in spades.
“We’ve got the take the confidence from what we’ve just done and channel that going forward. Show the same self-belief and no fear attitude. I definitely think we can get good results week in week out but, if we go through a bad spell, we’ve got to take it on the chin, bounce back and show we’re resolute.”
At first glance, United’s march to the League One title was a cakewalk. Chris Wilder’s side finished the campaign having amassed 100 points, scored 92 goals and unbeaten in their final 17 games. But, scratch beneath the surface, and their promotion was as much about personality and the squad’s ability to cope with extreme pressure as quality, calibre and technique.
Bottom of the table in mid-August and facing the prospect of spending a seventh successive year in the third tier, United’s players responded by winning 11 of their next 14 matches and, after seizing control of the competition, silencing the critics.
Sharp, whose record of 30 goals in 49 appearances helped catapult them up the rankings, acknowledges results will be harder to come by next term but is adamant Wilder’s squad has the psychological strength to cope.
“We all know it’s not going to be easy,” he says. “But we’ve got to believe, and I think the lads do, that we can do well. When we take a knock on the chin, team mates have got to help each other out. We’ve got to stick together in the bad times as well as the good. To be honest, though, I think that’s something - sticking together - we do really well.”
“I’d like to think other teams will have respect for us,” Sharp adds. “But if they want to write us off then fine. We’ve got a lot of experience at this level and some new exciting talent who can make the step up. There’s plenty of good options.”
Wilder’s first act after taking charge last summer was to appoint Sharp, another lifelong United supporter, as the club’s new captain. It proved to be an inspired decision and means, given the 49-year-old’s permissive approach, he has responsibility for discipline behind the scenes.
“It’s a self-policing dressing room because that’s what the gaffer wanted,” Sharp continues. “Obviously he’s the one running the show and he’s the boss but, most of the time, he wants it all to be from the players. That’s good because it’s all on us then. If we aren’t quite doing it then we’ve only got ourselves to look at and ourselves to blame.”