Sheffield United strike a blow for ‘working away from lights’, says Chris Wilder

Sheffield united manager Chris Wilder believes his side’s promotion to the Premier League has struck a blow for all those clubs unable to splash big money on transfers.

Sheffield Uniteds Billy Sharp, centre, celebrates with his team-mates after the final whistle as they beat Ipswich Town 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Saturday (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire).
Sheffield Uniteds Billy Sharp, centre, celebrates with his team-mates after the final whistle as they beat Ipswich Town 2-0 at Bramall Lane on Saturday (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire).

The Blades completed their rise from League One to the top flight inside three years with a 2-0 triumph over already relegated Ipswich Town on Saturday evening.

Victory nudged the Bramall Lane club six points clear of Leeds United, who a little under 24 hours later were held to a 1-1 draw at Elland Road by Aston Villa.

In a division where Stoke City and Nottingham Forest both spent more than £20m during a summer that saw the Blades forced to sell David Brooks to Bournemouth for £11.5m, Wilder’s side clinching automatic promotion is one in the eye for those who feel spending power is the key to success.

“People talk about budgets, but ours is in the bottom third (of the Championship),” said the 51-year-old Blades chief to The Yorkshire Post.

“When you pull players in from Portsmouth (Enda Stevens), who were then in League Two, Mark Duffy from Burton and Jack O’Connell from Brentford reserves, they are not coming for the big pay day.

“So if you are going to achieve what we have achieved you have to do a lot of good things.

“Togetherness is a big part, as is being committed, organised, disciplined and selfless – all fundamental qualities that are quite easily bypassed by just signing a cheque and getting the best players in.

“We have put all that together and, for me, what this does is strike a blow for the value of working away from the lights. We have spoken about that a lot.”

United’s promotion was their second in three seasons under Wilder, who took over the club he supported as a boy in the wake of a disappointing 11th place finish in the 2015-16 campaign.

His first year brought the League One title after the Blades racked up a century of points, but this latest success is game-changing for the club.

A minimum windfall of around £170m awaits United, who are back in the big time after 12 years away.

It is the third time the Blades have won promotion to the top flight since 1990 and Wilder insists the current crop deserve their place in club folklore alongside the successful teams of the past.

“You saw the scenes at the end,” he added. “The fans have a team to be unbelievably proud of and, hopefully, will rank with TC (Tony Currie) and ’71 team. Or Harry’s team and Neil’s team (Bassett and Warnock).

“I believe this group deserve to be right up there and talked about in the same breath.”

As for taking his beloved club from the third tier to the top flight in three years, Wilder added: “When I first came in we had to change the mindset of the players. We had to give the supporters something to hang on to.

“The biggest compliment I can give the players is they always leave everything out there. They always give themselves an opportunity to win games.”

Goals from O’Connell, one of four in the starting XI on Saturday who won promotion from League One with the Blades, and loanee Scott Hogan were enough to see off Ipswich and spark a huge party at the Lane.

Victory means Oliver Norwood, signed last summer for £2m from Brighton & Hove Albion, is celebrating a third straight promotion to the Premier League.

Wilder is full of praise for the role played this term by the Northern Ireland international, who he has promised will get his chance in the top flight after not making an appearance for either the Seagulls or Fulham – where he spent the 2017-18 campaign on loan – following promotion.

“I can guarantee he will play there,” added the Blades chief. “He has knitted everything together. We made a few changes in August and Ollie was available.

“He was in the PFA team of the year and has now got his third promotion in the spin. That is not a fluke.

“People talk about unbelievable stories, but what about Mark Duffy as well? Next year he will be involved at Anfield and Old Trafford. What a fabulous reward for him and also for our support.

“There are stories like this right through the squad.”

Party at the Lane: Page 3