SOMETIMES, the scripts write themselves in Hollywood fashion in football.
If Sheffield United secure their cherished hope of promotion back to the Championship with a win at Sixfields today – ending their six-season ordeal in the third tier – then there will be a certain symmetry for manager Chris Wilder.
It was at the south Midlands venue that Wilder’s Northampton Town side were promoted to League One, exactly a year ago tomorrow on April 9, 2016 following a 1-1 home draw with visiting Bristol Rovers.
The Cobblers handled all sorts of off-the-field vicissitudes to get over the line in a remarkable campaign when everyone closed ranks, stuck together and roared out collective defiance – a season that no-one connected with the club will ever forget.
In many respects, thankfully minus the behind-the-scenes turmoil, the Blades’ current season has been similar and it is in the famous shoe-making town where Wilder’s troops can finally put the boot into League One.
If the Blades require another omen, it came in April, 1989 when Dave Bassett’s side – including a young Wilder in their ranks – claimed a key 2-1 triumph at the old County Ground en route to promotion at this level on their last league visit to Northampton.
I enjoyed my time there and the people made me feel fantastic. They really cared about their football club; the same as the people here care about this one.Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder
On this afternoon’s potentially landmark occasion, Wilder, whose Blades side will be backed by a sell-out 1,500 contingent on their first visit to Sixfields – with several thousands more watching a beam-back of the game at Bramall Lane – admitted: “I did not think emotion was involved in football, was it?
“It is almost a year to the day (since Northampton were promoted at home under him). It is mad.
“I enjoyed my time there and the people made me feel fantastic. They really cared about their football club; the same as the people here care about this one.
“It is daft isn’t it, how a football club can grab hold of your life? If you are a Northampton Town fan, and your club looks like going to the wall, look at how they backed it. They did not want it to die.
“Here, look at how our fans want the players to achieve and how they are driving them across the line.”
Back at the start of March, today’s game had the potential for ramifications at both ends of the table, with the Cobblers in danger of being sucked into the relegation dogfight if they were not careful.
But Justin Edinburgh’s side have steered themselves to the safety and comfort of mid-table in the past month, not that Wilder believes that today’s game is anything like a ‘gimmie.’
Wilder, whose Blades side are unbeaten in their past 12 league matches, winning eight of them, added: “I am glad they are doing well. They have got a fantastic chairman and the manager has done well since he (Edinburgh) has come in. It will be a tough game.
“They will not want to just roll over and they will not want to let us go home celebrating if they can help it.
“We have got another tough game and we will be ready for it.”