Sheffield United: Why following Bournemouth’s model will help the Blades become top tier regulars
Time and time again, sides have diligently picked their way to the base camp of Mount Premier League, only to be swept back to Championship Valley in a pile of rubble the following summer.
Some never recover – Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers – and continue to tumble their way into obscurity. Others, perhaps more frustratingly, nomadically trek between the top two divisions – too good for one, not good enough for the other.
So, the big question is: how do Sheffield United go about becoming a top tier stalwart once again? The answer could lie a couple of hundred miles south, in the sunny seaside resort of Bournemouth.
The Cherries have just completed their fourth consecutive season in the Premier League, with Eddie Howe transforming the team from plucky young upstarts into an established top division side. Encouragingly for the Blades, there's some clear parallels between them and the south coast side.
Firstly, let's take a look at the managers: Chris Wilder and Howe are both at the helm of their boyhood clubs, and their desire to lead their respective sides to glory is an invaluable weapon.
Secondly, playing staff: Howe was faithful to the rock solid backbone of a side that saw the Cherries blast their way from League Two to the Premier League in just six seasons – Steve Cook, Simon Francis, Charlie Daniel; these players all began their spell with the club in League One, and are still mainstays of the squad.
Wilder has expressed his admiration for Howe in the past, citing the cherubic coach's knack for crafting lower league player into Premier League stars as a clear indication of his managerial quality.
George Baldock, John Fleck and Chris Basham should all feature regularly for the Blades next season; their loyalty rightfully rewarded with a crack at the big time. Hungry, motivated players, showing the desire to prove themselves that has worked wonders for the Cherries.
Again, tactically, there are clear similarities between the two. Granted, Bournemouth's refusal to play cautiously has cost them at times, but their now perennial presence in the Premier League shows that shutting up shop for 38 games isn't the only way to assure Premier League survival.
The Blades played some dazzling football under Wilder last season, and he's already stated he has no intention of cowering away from the big boys next season, and throwing ten men behind the ball.
An away trip to Bournemouth is one to be feared, but a visit to Bramall Lane will surely one to be dreaded.
Of course, the Cherries have spent some money along the way, powering their way through the lower leagues with decent investment. They splashed £50 million on new signings for their first Premier League campaign, and to have a chance of staying up, United may need to shell out a similar amount of cash.
The Blades have their own proud identity, and that will serve them well next season. But taking a little inspiration from Bournemouth, in terms of keeping the squad core together and playing bold football, could be just the ticket to keep them up permanently.