Chris Wilder declared ‘Sheffield United are back’ after his team were promoted back to the Championship.
The League One leaders opened up an unassailable 16 point lead over third-placed Fleetwood Town with only four matches remaining following a 2-1 victory over Northampton Town.
And, amid jubilant scenes at Sixfields, Wilder dedicated their success to those supporters who have backed them throughout a six year stay in the third tier.
“The fans have had a lot chucked at them,” he said. “About it being a pub league and this that and the other. But this isn’t a pub team. This is a proper team that’s going to keep on going right until the end. And I don’t think anyone who was in this ground can deny we don’t deserve it either.”
Wilder, himself a lifelong United supporter and former player, issued the defiant message after transforming the club’s fortunes following his appointment in May. Having led Northampton to the League Two title last term, he is the first manager to win consecutive promotions with different clubs since his predecessor Neil Warnock achieved the feat over two decades ago.
“It’s a massive group effort,” Wilder continued. “The group has been brilliant and we just wanted to return the club to the supporters so they could be proud of us. I’ve enjoyed every minute.”
United entered the game knowing victory would guarantee a top two finish regardless of results elsewhere.
Having fallen behind seconds before the break, goals from Leon Clarke and John Fleck propelled them to victory although Oldham’s victory over Uwe Rosler’s side ultimately rendered the result an irrelevance.
“I think these lads have demanded respect,” Wilder said. “I think we’re the outstanding team in the division. They’ve been under pressure every week. We’ve handled everything that’s been thrown at us; all the comments, every physical challenge and every mental challenge too. We’ve just kept getting over those hurdles and that’s a massive quality to have. Added to some real technical players. They didn’t want to lose. I didn’t want to lose. For them to do what they’ve done was first class.”
“You always put pressure on yourself,” Wilder added. “We put massive pressure on ourselves. We did that here at Northampton, when we left a team (Oxford) that was towards the top of League Two for one that was going out of the league.
“But then, when Annie’s Song comes on, I just think ‘wow.’ My pals are in the stand when I turn round, my wife is in the stand but then it’s ‘click.’ Back to business. We know the passion people need to show to represent this football club.”