'I had a good time' - Richard Stearman talks getting 'Stearmaned' in his promotion celebrations and loving his time at Sheffield United
Richard Stearman, the former Sheffield United defender, admits he will never forget his spell at Bramall Lane after he joined Huddersfield Town in January.
The former Wolves and Fulham defender spent two-and-a-half seasons as a Blade, helping United gain promotion to the Premier League last term.
But Stearman found game time limited, because of the form of John Egan and the signing of Phil Jagielka, and was allowed to join Huddersfield in January after being restricted to cup appearances only this campaign.
The 32-year-old defender earned a place in Blades folklore with his memorable celebrations after Premier League football was sealed last year, but also more than played his part on the pitch too.
He scored the winner against Middlesbrough at a crucial time - United had just drawn with Aston Villa after being 3-0 up, and lost half of their defence to a combination of injury and suspension - and made 52 appearances in all competitions as a Blade, netting five times.
"We had a bit of a celebration after the Ipswich game, as a team and as a staff, and then arranged to watch the Leeds v Villa game at the stadium," Stearman remembers, of his promotion celebrations.
"The Leeds game was an early-ish kick-off and it all unfolded from there. I don't think we got much sleep the night before and it continued from there, but it showed the togetherness we had; as players and staff and the club as a whole.
"It really was a club effort to get us promoted and to celebrate it with each other, and with the staff and then with the fans was something special."
The defender's celebrations were caught on camera by jubilant fans as players and supporters mixed together in the aftermath of promotion and a new verb - to get 'Stearmaned' - was coined.
"I had a good time!" added Stearman, speaking on the Inside United podcast.
"I can't remember all of it but I get reminded of it every few days on social media. I'm the wrong side of 30 now and my going out days have stopped, so if you're putting on a free bar for a couple of days and we've just been promoted... if there's ever a time to go out, it's after being promoted!
"It was a mixture of everything in one... the joy and jubilation and relief or getting it done, the togetherness of the group, knowing what it means for all of us career-wise, the financial benefit, being back in the Premier League... everything that promotion brings, all rolled into one, fuelled by some alcohol and then camera phones everywhere.
"The celebrations were the result of all that thrown into the mix, but I wouldn't change it.
"Some of the best times I've had came with that group and club as a whole and it's something I'll hold dear in my heart.
"My whole time at the club is something I'll never forget."
Stearman's contract at Bramall Lane was terminated in January, freeing him to join Championship side Huddersfield. He has played 10 games to date for Danny Cowley's men.
“It was gut-wrenching [to leave United], to be honest,” Stearman added.
“I’d fallen in love with the place, I loved the dressing room, the staff, walking out at Bramall Lane. I wanted to still be a part of it, but I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked.
"The manager was brilliant with me, though – as he has been throughout my time at the club. I wasn’t told to leave. He just said: 'Your contract is running down... if something comes up you want to pursue, you’re welcome to leave. You’ve been a fantastic servant to us and we won’t stand in your way.’
“It was an emotional day leaving the training ground, leaving all the lads who were going out to training and saying goodbye to all the staff.
"But it was probably my time and it was a natural conclusion, I think. I could have hung around; I loved the place and the training. But I hadn't played for six months plus, so we shook hands."
Stearman signed a three-year contract at Bramall Lane after United paid up the remainder of his deal at Fulham in 2017. The Blades were newly into the Championship after winning the League One title, and Stearman began that season at the heart of United's three-man defence.
"The system took a bit of getting used to," Stearman admitted. "As a centre-back playing in a back three, you think: 'Brilliant, I've got three chances of playing here!'
"So I told the manager that I had played all along the back four so I could play in any of the three positions if needed. He said: 'No, I want you for the middle' and I said that was fine, as long as I was out there.
"I quickly realised why he wanted me in the middle and not in the 'outside' positions! It's such a unique system. I've played in a three plenty of times, but never in that way.
"It can leave the central player a bit exposed at times and takes a lot of organising, which is possibly one of my biggest strengths. Once I found my feet in that position, I loved it. I really enjoyed that system, and it has been very successful as well."
Stearman will settle down in front of his TV next week when the Blades take on Aston Villa at Villa Park, in the first game back after the Premier League break.
The Blades are seventh in the table, and will go fifth with victory over Dean Smith's side as they look to continue an unbelievable journey under Chris Wilder by qualifying for Europe for the first time in the club's long history.
"I won't lie, when I first signed I was a bit apprehensive," Stearman said.
"We were a newly-promoted team and with all respect, I didn't know half of the players. My first thoughts were: 'Let's make sure we stay in the league'.
"But I met the manager and had a great gut feeling, hearing his plan and his vision. I knew the passion of the fans and it aligned with who I am as a player and as a person.
"We went from strength to strength. We took to the Championship so well in that first year and the lads find themselves where they are now - and deservedly so.
"They're a hungry squad that has tasted success and want to continue that. The team spirit is one of the biggest strengths; they dig deep and they're there for each other.
"Winning helps breed that togetherness but there are times when they aren't winning games too, and they have to pull together.
"A lot of the boys have come from League One and followed the manager all the way through.
"It's an amazing story and it's great to have been a part of it. Fingers crossed, they can continue what they've been doing.
"I'll continue to watch with a smile."