Without going into major detail about the season up to now, its quite obvious that it has been one of the most up and down seasons in recent memory for Blades fans.
The Blades have gone from losing 7 games in a row and staring relegation in the face under David Weir to now preparing for a Wembley show-down in the FA Cup semi-final against Hull and looking up rather than down in the league under current manager Nigel Clough. However, with just 11 league games left for the steel city side a good end to the season is now the main focus – aside from the glory game at Wembley in April. The club looks set to compete in its 4th successive campaign in the 3rd tier of English football and I believe that a good run from now till the conclusion of the current season will be invaluable.
There is no doubt that there is a much bigger sense of optimism around the club at the moment than there has been for a while. Finally the fans feel as though they have ‘their’ club back with that fighting spirit that has been missing for a number of years. With the club firmly slotted in the middle of the League One table and games running out, my attention is turning to next season and what we can expect and thrive to achieve. Speaking to a number of Blades fans around the grounds and on social media since Christmas the belief is that promotion has got to be the aim for next season and falling short again would be a travesty. At the end of last season the club I believe was at its lowest in a heck of a long time with no manager, financial concerns, falling attendances along with a lack of ambition and a shortening squad. That was down to a very poor end to the season which just seemed to fizzle out unspectacularly and that is why a promising end to this season is very important. We are on by far our strongest run of the season and with Nigel Clough at the helm I believe this will ensure that next season can be a lot more positive than the current one.
Why can Sheffield United fans be confident that next year can be successful? Firstly, the manager – Nigel Clough, who has transformed the clubs fortunes on the pitch, leading them to a position in the table where they are now closer to the top 6 than the bottom 4. His persona is difficult not to like, he oozes class in his interviews and just fills fans with confidence that he knows what he’s doing and also that he could be the man to stay here for the long term and finally awaken the sleeping giant which is Sheffield United. The biggest clue that his methods are working is the comments the current set of players are coming out with – take Neil Collins’ recent statement of ‘you can just tell he will be for a long time’ for example. For a senior player to come out and say that, it just shows that the players are committed to Nigel’s plans and philosophy for both the short term and long term. Secondly, the squad of players that Clough has assembled – the players are both playing brilliantly individually and collectively. It seems the squad are a lot closer knit group than was the case earlier in the season with constant evidence being shown on and off the pitch. I believe we have the perfect blend of experience and youth and with a couple of additions in the summer – especially in the striking department the squad will be more than capable of mounting a challenge for the top 2.
The final reason why I believe the fans have the right to be excited is the hands the club are now in. Rightly so when the Prince and his team came in to purchase 50% of the club fans were sceptical. Too many times in English football foreign investors have come into clubs and maybe not treat the club with the respect it deserves – take Hull and Cardiff as examples. As time has gone on we as fans have become confident in the current partnership between Kevin McCabe and the Prince’s delegation which include very fine people in Jim Phipps and Selahatin Baki. Finances now do not seem to be a problem and now more of an asset. With the Princes obvious wealth and ambition coupled with the continued support of Kevin McCabe I now feel the club is in as good a shape off the field since the Premiership Days.
With all these reasons I firmly think that Blades fans have the right to be excited about the short term future and also the long term state of the club. Lets just hope that this excitement and hope will be carried out and one of England’s largest sleeping giants can be awoken with a roar.