Cracking derby to savour as BSheffield United prepare to celebrate League One title

AHEAD of what is certain to be a huge homecoming party for his title-winning heroes, Chris Wilder admits the enormity of Sheffield United's achievement is only likely to sink in when the players run out before kick-off.

WE MEET AGAIN: Sheffield United's Danny Lafferty, right, and Bradford City's Rory McArdle battle for possession during the 3-3 draw between the two clubs at Valley Parade last October. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

The Blades host Bradford City in front of the live Sky cameras with the championship already secured thanks to their Good Friday win over Port Vale and Bolton Wanderers’ defeat at Oldham Athletic the following day.

A bumper crowd is expected for a derby encounter that has big ramifications for the promotion-chasing Bantams and Wilder, a lifelong United fan, admits today is likely to be an emotional one.

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“Our success hasn’t sunk in yet,” the 49-year-old told The Yorkshire Post. “I have said to a few people in the past week that I don’t think it will until we next play at home.

“We have had glimpses of what it means to the fans, we were back at Bramall Lane on the Saturday night after Northampton (when promotion was sealed nine days ago) and there was a supporters’ club night on.

“So, we got a taste of what promotion means to the fans. I also went out on the Sunday and saw a few of my pals, and they were all delighted.

“But I don’t think we will see exactly what it means until the Bradford game. The day should be something special.

“Bradford need to get something to reach the play-offs, while we want to finish strongly. It should be a cracking game and a great atmosphere – and if it is anything like the first game at Valley Parade (that finished 3-3 in October) then everyone is in for a real treat.

DELIGHTED: Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“That was a great game of football played between two teams who were determined to win. I would imagine this will be the same.”

The weekend results brought United their first title success in 35 years.

That came in the old Fourth Division at the end of a season in which the Bantams were also promoted in the runners-up spot. A repeat is still a possibility this time around, even if second-placed Bolton hold a four-point advantage over the Bantams in fourth place.

As for the play-offs, Stuart McCall’s men need just four points to guarantee a second tilt at winning promotion via Wembley in as many years, something that Sheffield-born Rory McArdle believes is good news for not just Bradford but the whole county.

DELIGHTED: Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“Yorkshire football is bouncing at the moment with so many teams doing well,” said the defender. “Doncaster have been flying in the league below us, as have Sheffield United in League One.

“I also look at the Championship and so many clubs from the county are doing well. Huddersfield Town are having a huge season, as are quite a few others.

“That is why it would be great if we could get a few more Yorkshire sides in the Championship. The rivalries are huge and the derbies are always great.”

Striker James Hanson, who left Valley Parade for the Lane in a £150,000 deal last January, is expected to line up against his former club.

McArdle added: “In my time here, ‘Hans’ was the one who had been here the longest and someone we all went to.

“As friends, we have chatted since he left. We spent a lot of time together on the coach and at the training ground so I am pleased things have worked out for him.”

United manager Wilder, meanwhile, will today be rightly lauded for his work in ending the club’s six-year stay in League One.

He added: “On a personal level, it will be an emotional day for me. It was at Northampton last week, and the emotions were all there against Coventry in our last home game, too.

The atmosphere in the ground that night was unbelievable, especially for a midweek game. It just felt like we were on the verge of something special.”

Asked about the chant ‘he’s one of our own’ that has been sung at Wilder by fans during the run-in, the former Lane ballboy added: “Having my name sung like that is great recognition from the fans and I really do appreciate it.

“I know this club and the supporters. I also know the game pretty well and know things don’t always go right.

“That is why we have to enjoy moments like this, as they don’t come along too often.

“This promotion was always going to be that bit more special to me and something that meant that little bit more because of my connections with the club. Having said that, this is not over yet.”

How the James Hanson deal sparked both clubs: Page 3