Doyle urges Blades to use loss as fuel for title challenge

MICHAEL Doyle has stressed that Sheffield United must use the pain of Wembley defeat to come back even stronger next season.

The Blades missed out on promotion to the Championship by losing on penalties to Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town in Saturday’s League One play-off final.

Captain Doyle, one of the scorers in the penalty shoot-out, described the experience as the ‘worst’ of his career but is also adamant that the Blades will win the title next season. “We are going to come back stronger and win this league,” he said.

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“Losing this hurts and it is the worst feeling of my career – but it also has to be our motivation next season – and we have said that in the dressing room.

“The gaffer has told us to be proud and be ready for next season. We want winners, hungry people and we want to go one better. That’s the standard we are going to set from day one and people better be ready for it.”

The Blades had been firmly on course for automatic promotion entering the final three games of the season but lost striker Ched Evans and also lost their grip on second spot. Manager Danny Wilson won over his doubters and his team finished the campaign as the highest scorers in the Football League.

“I don’t think there’s a lot more we could have done than to get 90 points,” said Doyle. “It is a different type of team now and the fans enjoy the way we play football. There are a lot of positives.”

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Defender Neill Collins admitted it might be ‘tough’ to maintain this season’s high standards and also excused goalkeeper Steve Simonsen of blame for the Wembley defeat. Simonsen missed the penalty that handed Town victory after all the other 21 players had stepped up to the spot.

However, the Blades threw away a two-goal lead in the shoot-out as Lee Williamson, Matt Lowton and substitute Andy Taylor also failed from the spot. “It is total disappointment for a 49-game season to end like that on penalties,” said Collins.

“You won’t get a better opportunity to win a shoot-out than when the team going first misses their first three penalties. Once you let that slip, you are always against it.

“But no blame on him (Simonsen),” he added. “He’s done his job, he’s tried to keep them out. It was up to other players to try to put them in. He has not lost a goal in three play-off games so not to win the final after that is disheartening.

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“We have to go away and stew on this for three or four weeks,” he said. “The dust will settle. It’s been a fantastic season and to come back and do the same again will be tough – but that’s the demands of the club and we will try.”

Blades midfielder Stephen Quinn is one of several players who may yet be sold this summer to balance the books at Bramall Lane. The Dubliner was non-commital about his future.

“I hope I am here next season. But I have not thought about my future. We will look at it in the summer,” he said. “I love this club. This has been the most enjoyable season. But it’s devastating to lose another play-off final.”