THESE are exciting times around Bramall Lane thanks to Sheffield United being one of an elite band of clubs still chasing success on three fronts.
However, amid all the talk of Wembley, Cup shocks and promotion pushes, few things have got the club’s supporters as enthused recently as the re-capture of John Brayford in a £1.5m deal.
The 27-year-old made such an impression on loan last term that his return over the weekend has left the Bramall Lane faithful abuzz with anticipation, even though the bearded full-back is cup-tied for both tomorrow night’s League Cup semi-final decider against Tottenham Hotspur and next week’s FA Cup fourth-round replay against Preston North End.
Just the fact Brayford is back on board has fuelled hopes that United can make it fourth time lucky this May in attempting to escape from League One.
“We can do it,” says the new signing from Cardiff City when speaking to The Yorkshire Post in the fitting surrounds of United’s Legends of the Lane lounge.
“I know the cups are on at the moment, but the league is massive for everyone here. We play Swindon on Saturday and they are the leaders.
“But we have two games in hand on them so if we can win those games and win on Saturday then we could get the gap down to nine points. That (automatic promotion) is no way out of the question when you look at it like that.
“To achieve something like that, you have to think you can achieve it – and I do. If we don’t make it then I am sure we will be pushing like hell to make it.
“Look at what happened last season. We won 10 in a row (from February 4 onwards). If we can get that sort of momentum, the teams at the top will be looking over their shoulders.
“We saw last season with how far we went up the table – from second bottom to just one place off the play-offs – just what can happen if we get on a roll. This is a massive club and the lads know we have a hell of a team if everything clicks right.”
United’s main focus right now, of course, is tomorrow’s second leg with Spurs.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in London, the Blades will be roared on by a sell-out crowd. Not for the first time this season, Brayford will be cheering on Clough’s men from the stand.
“I went to QPR in the away end (when United won 3-0 in the FA Cup third round),” he says.
“That was brilliant. Winning like that was a real credit to the lads and the manager.
“QPR and West Ham, those are two Premier League teams that the lads went away to and won. It is an unbelievable achievement.
“I am cup-tied because I played for Cardiff against Bournemouth; we were 3-0 down after about 20 minutes so that wasn’t great. But it will be great to see the lads take on Spurs.”
On sealing a much-wanted return to South Yorkshire, Brayford adds: “I can’t say there was any one moment when I decided I had to come back. I got a shirt at Cardiff at the start of the season and was determined to do well.
“Whatever club I was at, that would have been the case. I did know deep down, though, that I had a real affection for this place and a special connection.
“The fans and the manager and the club itself made me want to come back, as did the whole history of the place.
“Things do play on your mind and that was the case with me and Sheffield United.
“It feels like I belong and now it is up to me to try and do that again.”