Michael Doyle knows only too well that derby games could have a huge say on Sheffield United’s season.
For if the Blades are to win promotion from League One this term, results against neighbours Chesterfield and their Yorkshire rivals in Bradford City, Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers could have a telling impact.
If United were not already a prized scalp in the third tier of English football, then derby bragging rights just add that little bit more spice.
It has been three years since League One had such a rich local contingent for the Blades to do battle with. Back then, city rivals Wednesday, Huddersfield Town and Chesterfield were the competition.
Come May that season, all three rivals had departed League One to leave the Blades stranded. Wednesday pipped the Blades for automatic promotion, Chesterfield were relegated, and Town beat United on penalties at Wembley in the play-offs.
Captain Doyle was in the Blades line-up that day, and the tigerish midfielder is eager to taste derby action once more.
Today’s trip over the border into Derbyshire – Chesterfield’s ground is just 9.8 miles from Bramall Lane – is the first of four derbies over the next six weeks for United. They travel to Valley Parade in a fortnight’s time, host Barnsley on November 1, before visiting Doncaster on November 15.
“It is going to be a good game (at Chesterfield), derby games are a great occasion,” he said. “A full house.
“This is going to be the first of many, we have got a lot of games which are quite local this year.
“They are always better games, you get a big away following, the opposition always take their allocation as well. They are the best games to play in so I am looking forward to it.
“I remember all those games in the year we lost the play-off final. There were a lot of teams in this area that we played then, and they were always great games.”
In that 2011-12 season, the Blades had a decent record against their local rivals. They beat the Spireites home and away, lost at home to Huddersfield 3-0 but won away 1-0, drew 2-2 with Wednesday at Bramall Lane only to lose to Chris O’Grady’s goal at Hillsborough 1-0.
Chesterfield were relegated that season, but Paul Cook’s team are newly-promoted and will prove a tougher proposition than three years ago.
Doyle said: “Chesterfield are a good side with some good players and a good manager. We know it will be a tough game. But there’s always something different about a derby.
“It’s a tight little ground, there will be a great atmosphere. Hopefully, we can come out on top. The last time we played Chesterfield was the year they got relegated, they hadn’t won a lot of games.
“It was a tough game, we won 1-0, Ched (Evans) scored the goal near the end. There wasn’t a lot in the game, it was quite windy, and Saturday could be quite similar.
“Obviously, Chesterfield are in a different position from where they were last time, playing a lot of free-flowing football and quite attacking.
“They have carried on their form from last season and took that momentum into this year, they are still going strong.
“I don’t think there will be much between us. We are in a good run of form, the last eight games we have lost once, and are confident going into the game.
“A lot of it is game-management and concentration when you come to these games. You need to keep calm, concentrate, and try to block out the other stuff.
“The team that’s able to do that in these games, is the team that comes out on top.”
One thing in United’s favour is if they are trailing going into the final 10 minutes today, they have shown a resilient streak this season to score late goals.
This was never more evident than in turning a 2-0 deficit at Colchester United into a 3-2 win with three goals in the last seven minutes, and last Saturday when they trailed to an 83rd-minute goal at home to Gillingham but netted twice to win 2-1.
Doyle believes the FA Cup run to Wembley last season has instilled a fighting spirit into the Blades, which can carry them a long way this campaign.
“The FA Cup run last year has already helped this season,” said Doyle. “We finished the second-half of the season so strong last year and had momentum. The amount of times in that Cup run when we went behind in games, and had to come back against higher opposition and go on to win games.
“That’s happened a couple of times this season. On Saturday (against Gillingham), the effort and the spirit from the lads, to go 1-0 down after eighty-odd minutes and come back to win the game was an unbelievable effort. We deserved it, from start to finish we were pretty good.
“But all that spirit comes from last year and the run that we were on, the crowd reacted to it as well. You saw it at Colchester, we don’t play well for 80 minutes, 2-0 down yet come back and score three goals.
“That’s not something we have been able to do in the past. We were always quite good at getting our noses in front and soaking up the pressure, being good defensively and keeping a clean sheet. We now believe we have goals in our side.”
United yesterday completed the signing of Crystal Palace defender Paddy McCarthy on an initial one-month loan deal. The 31-year-old is in the squad for today’s game.
McCarthy said the lure of playing for United was the reason he dropped down to League One.
He said: “There aren’t many teams I’d have dropped down two divisions for but this is one of them. In fact, it’s probably the only one.
“I’ve spoken with the manager and met the rest of the lads. There are players here who should be a level above at least.
“Hopefully I can play a part in making sure that happens. The ground, the training complex, the way it’s set-up and the video analysis, I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen.”