Kieron Freeman believes Sheffield United’s exploits last season have earned the respect of their Championship peers.
Chris Wilder’s Blades – fresh from romping away with the League One title – came into last season’s Championship as something of a surprise package.
With little experience of playing in the second tier of English football, the Blades’ swashbuckling style won many plaudits and they were in contention for a play-off spot until their season tailed off.
Now, with some astute signings – like Brentford’s John Egan and Brighton’s Ollie Norwood –the Blades are ready to battle for a top-six finish once again.
Defender Freeman believes last season’s displays have changed perceptions. “We have some great players here. We got judged last season because we were classed as League One players,” said Freeman.
“But we get a bit more respect now because we’ve had a season in the Championship, and did well. I have watched the players from a distance and trained with them, too, and we have got some great ones.
“I know the qualities this team has got and everyone’s starting to see that as well.
Freeman was forced to watch from the sidelines for a large chunk of last season – six months – due to a knee injury before returning last Spring against Preston North End and Bristol City.
The 26-year-old started in this month’s back-to-back wins over Norwich City and QPR, and has been impressed with the new-look Blades team.
Freeman said: “I enjoy playing football, but it was nice watching the boys from a different perspective, with how well we played and how far we’ve come from playing in League One.
“We were really tough opposition last time and the boys did tremendously well. It was harsh to miss out on the play-offs over the period of the season.
“But it’s a new season now, I think we’re stronger after adding more players and we look a good prospect.
“I felt good from the off. I played two games at the back end of the season, but my fitness wasn’t there. It was nice to be back in the first team with the lads and playing in front of the fans.
“I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to come over a long-term injury and get a few games. It was new for me, I had not been out for that long before, but we have got great staff behind the scenes.
“I wouldn’t say enjoyable, but they helped me get back and it’s nice to be back up and running.”