Chris Basham claimed no one has a stronger team spirit than Sheffield United after scoring the goal which, according to Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy, confirmed their status as genuine promotion contenders this term.
United climbed to third in the Championship table, within touching distance of early leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, following a 1-0 victory over the visitors from Portman Road.
Despite concurring with Chris Wilder’s statement that avoiding relegation must remain his side’s primary target - “Another 26 points to go and we we’ll be alright” - Basham insisted the same qualities which propelled them to promotion last season can prove equally effective on a higher stage.
“It’s the best team I have been involved with,” he said. “Everyone is on it in training every single day. If they’re not, they get told, it’s as simple as that. It’s a really tight knit group, a very close environment, but people express themselves as well.”
Basham’s effort, his first since November, means United enter this weekend’s meeting with Reading knowing another win could move them to the top of the table only six months after lifting the League One title. But their progress came at a price with defender Kieron Freeman suffering a suspected knee dislocation before half-time.
“He’s dislocated his knee so that’s not great,” Wilder, the United manager, said. “He’ll got for a scan. Our players put their bodies on the line and sometime, these things happen. He’ll have a period out but, medically, we’ll only know how long for when the results come back.”
A hallmark of United’s performances under Wilder is their determination to attack games rather than prioritise avoiding defeat. Basham, who also sympathised with Freeman’s predicament, insisted that expansive outlook, combined with the character of United’s squad, makes them a dangerous proposition.
“That’s the good thing about us,” he said. “We have got lads who can come in, lads go out, but everyone knows what they are doing and there are people who can start in every position.
“One of the main things about this team, is we are going to have a go. I don’t think we can sit back, I don’t think it’s the way we play. When the gaffer says take the handbrake off, there’s no other way we can play.”
“The attitude is really good, excellent in fact, and everyone will make sure that continues,” he added. “I don’t think that’s going to change. Everyone who comes onto the field has done really well in the week, because we have to produce in training.”