Sheffield United v Brentford: Blades determined to settle quickly at higher level

IT was in the millionaires' playground of Marbella where Chris Wilder rather appropriately spoke to his Sheffield United squad about just what can be achieved if you work your way up from the bottom.

Looking forward: Chris Basham of Sheffield Utd. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

For humble, hard-working Blades players such as Geordie grafter Chris Basham, the prize at stake is not sampling fare at sumptuous, world-class restaurants or partying with the in-crowd on the spectacular yachts moored at the famous Spanish port, but something far more enriching.

He and his team-mates will be afforded a taste of it on a special afternoon at a throbbing Bramall Lane today – where proud Unitedites will hail the club’s return to a Championship level where they feel they should be plying their trade at the very least.

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But it is ultimately enjoying the trappings of the Premier League, where most of a red and white persuasion believe that the Blades should be dining out at, which remains the ultimate prize.

Many hills have to be climbed to achieve that. But it is not far-fetched or as far away as it seems either. Just ask some of the good, solid professionals at Huddersfield Town – or Bournemouth, Burnley and Swansea and the likes of Blackpool before them.

It has been the same at plenty of other clubs, too, and it does no harm to strive for something after all.

Especially at the Blades, where working-class, provincial heroes have previously luxuriated in their time in the top-flight sun. From Booker and Beesley to Hoyland and Gannon – and many more, too.

Basham said: “When we went to Marbella the other day, the gaffer was telling us about Bournemouth and all their players who were down there with them (in the lower divisions) and who have come all the way through.

“Not many players have taken their place off them so far and it is a good thing to have.

“I saw that with Blackpool when I joined them. There were people like Charlie Adam and David Vaughan who were outstanding and were with them coming through.

“It is having that belief and confidence to keep it going.

“I have unfinished business. I have played about 95 games in the Championship, but I have always seen myself as staying in this league and it is nice to come up.

“I am probably playing the best football of my career so far at this club and it is great to be among it. But we have got other players who have been down the leagues and come back up.

“Probably a big statement is John Lundstram, who has gone all the way down and come back up.

“You can tell what a quality player he is and you can see that in training. It is great to have that kind of player.”

A classic trait of the most feted Blades sides over the past generation has been their collective ability not to be fazed by teams or individuals with lofty reputations – and Wilder’s troops are very much of that ilk.

You sense that two of his successful predecessors in Neil Warnock and Dave Bassett, who inately understood the successful ingredients that every Blades player requires and what the club’s fanbase demands, would be nodding their heads in sage approval.

Tests against lavishly assembled sides and well-known names may await against the likes of Aston Villa, Derby County and Middlesbrough, but while the Blades’ squad has been put together for rather less cost, they certainly will not be feeling inferior in any way. Why should they?

Not after their unrelenting exploits last term when they showed no let-up in steamrollering their way to League One promotion and silverware and joining that exclusive bracket of clubs to record a century of points in a season after winning their final seven league games of an unforgettable 2016-17.

It is something only highly-motivated, special groups of footballers achieve. With an unbeaten run stretching back to January 24, Wilder’s troops are clearly in no mood to throw it away either.

Basham said: “I think it is a massive thing in terms of how well we did last season in winning all those games. We want to continue this winning run.

“People have seen me down before and now I am on a high and it is a great feeling. Having a confident group is massive and you feel that going through everybody.

“The pre-season has gone well and there will be teams worrying about us with the way we have not lost a game for so long, which is great. Teams are going to be very wary of us as we are so confident at the moment.

“We had a promotion with 100 points and the lads who come in are buzzing to be here and want to do really well. You want teams to worry about us more than we worry about them.”

An old-school mix exists in the Blades’ dressing room, where Geordie, Scouse, Brummie and Yorkshire accents can be heard, along with the odd Scottish and Irish brogue here and there.

It is most definitely egalitarian, with the new close-season signings, most of whom have all earned their spurs in the lower divisions like the ones already here, quickly made to feel at home.

Basham, who joined the Blades in June, 2014, continued: “Everyone who comes in is really happy to come on board with the team.

“They cannot come in with a better and more honest set of lads who work for each other as well as work for themselves to prove that they want to be in this team.

“That’s what the gaffer looks for – lads who are honest and willing to do the dirty work as well as express themselves.

“Like the skipper (Billy Sharp) says, he opens his arms to everyone who the gaffer brings in. I think that has been the stance since he came in.

“I have been in dressing rooms where you join a club and know you don’t get spoken to for two or three weeks and you are coming away and cannot wait to get back to your family.

“Whereas this group are quite family-orientated and everyone is together and the gaffer puts on good things for the boys to settle themselves in.”