Sheffield United face the biggest test of their Premier League credentials today but Blades defender John Egan insists “We are not here to be tourists”.
After opening their top-flight campaign against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Leicester City, Chris Wilder’s men head to the capital and Stamford Bridge today to face Chelsea.
The Blues finished third in the Premier League last season, and won the Europa League, and will provide United with their most high-profile challenge to date.
Walking out at Stamford Bridge in front of a huge crowd, facing the likes of Kepa, Willian, Mateo Kovacic and Cristian Pulisic – the quartet combined cost more than £200m – United could be forgiven for being a little star-struck.
But that is unlikely to happen for a side managed by Wilder – a one-time player for Kent schoolboys alongside former Chelsea star Gavin Peacock – whose down-to-earth attitude means the Blades will be ready for battle come kick-off.
If you come up against a team like that on their day, if we are sloppy, they can punish you.John Egan
“I believe we can go anywhere and be more than a match for any opposition,” said Blades defender Egan.
“We are not here to be tourists, in this league if you do that you’ll get punished severely.
“You need 100 per cent focus on the job, need to be prepared, which we will be. We have a lot of confidence and belief in the squad.
“We have earned the right to be in this league and feel we belong. We have shown that in first few games, I don’t think anyone is in awe of anything.
“There’s a bit of a chip on our shoulder, we feel we have good players and deserve to be in this league.
“We have taken a lot of confidence from our start. We have played three decent teams, who have been in the Premier League a good few years, and done well for most part.
“If we take that confidence on and keep improving as the season goes on, I feel that bodes well for rest of the season.
“Like any other game in this league, we are going to go everywhere and try and get a result.
“That’s the way we are as a team and how the gaffer is, we believe we can go there and perform, give us a chance of a result.
“Chelsea are a quality side, been up around the top of league for years, used to winning,” continued Egan, who signed from Brentford last year for a then club-record £4m.
“If you come up against a team like that on their day, if we are sloppy, they can punish you.
“But teams will be wary of us as well, they know the threats we pose. We have got to try and nullify them, and then implement our own style on the opposition. We can go anywhere and get a result if we are at it.
“We are confident, we believe in what we do. We have got good players, a lot of quality in the squad.
“I don’t think you can get results in this league without having that.
“Maximum effort is the bare minimum effort at this football club. That can only get you so far.
“We have goals in the team with all the strikers we have, we’re a tough team to play against for any team, and I know that first hand.”
After a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth, United beat Palace at Bramall Lane before slipping to a 2-1 loss against Leicester.
A four-point haul from three games is a decent return, but a positive result today will send the Blades into the international break in a positive mood.
“We are under no illusions when you play at this level it’s going to be tougher, the players are going to be better,” said Republic of Ireland international Egan, who like most of United’s squad, is experiencing Premier League football for the first time.
“But I think we have a good team and acquitted ourselves well so far. The first two games, especially, we imprinted our style on the opposition and got two good results.
“We were unfortunate against Leicester, another day we could have got a result.
“We weren’t too far way without being at our best.
“Leicester have good players and they punished us, for one of our only mistakes.
“In the Championship you might not have got away with that, the pass or finish might not have been as good.
“We have a lot of belief in ourselves and that’ll bode well for the future.
“We have set really high standards here and when we don’t meet them, the gaffer always reminds us.
“He’s got to really, because if we start to accept below-par performances from ourselves, we’ll be a below-par team. That’s not who we are.
“We have set high standards since I have been here, that’s the reason why we got promoted and started the season as well as we did.”
If Egan and United’s defence need any advice today, they only need turn to Phil Jagielka.
The centre-half was in the last Blades team to visit Stamford Bridge – a 3-0 defeat back in 2007 – before departing for Everton.
The 37-year-old returned to Bramall Lane in the summer after 12 years on Merseyside to provide some top-flight experience to Wilder’s defence.
“Jags has been brilliant,” said Egan. “He has come in with a wealth of experience, from Premier League and international level.
“Pre-season getting to know him it was good to pick his brains, on opposition players he has played against. On the pitch asking ‘what would you do in this scenario?’.”