FOR Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp and a select band of team-mates, two promotions in an unforgettable three-year cycle have helped firmly cement their place in Blades’ folklore.
Living the dream with his boyhood club and preparing for his maiden full top-flight season he may be, but the 33-year-old is equally aware that Blades manager Chris Wilder is not the sort of individual who is likely to be overly sentimental.
The likes of Sharp, John Fleck, Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell and Mark Duffy have all played an integral part in Wilder’s resurgent tale at Bramall Lane since his arrival in May 2016.
But Sharp is conscious that it is up to him and his team-mates to prove themselves worthy of a leading role in the next chapter of the United story in the Premier League – while tacitly acknowledging that some players may ‘get left behind’ if they do not get up to speed quickly.
Something Sharp is also equally categorical about is that he and his colleagues will not be overrawed by the challenge.
Sharp said: “In the first couple of weeks of pre-season, we will reminisce and talk about the good times we have just had. But we know there is work to be put in fitness wise to meet the demands of the Premier League.
“We will have to improve individually.
“There will be players who get left behind and players who kick on.
“My responsibility is to make sure the lads do not take their foot off the gas.
“We need to improve individually and as a team. It is a big step up.
“But we are a group that plays with no fear. We are looking forward to it. If we take a few beatings, we usually react well.
“We know it is going to be tough and hopefully we will sign a few to make us stronger. But we are not a group that fears anything and we have not lost a game for a while.”
High up on the to-do list for the Blades is bringing back loan goalkeeper Dean Henderson to S2 – fresh from his outstanding season at the club last term when he became a firm favourite among Unitedites.
The Cumbrian remains intent on returning to the club next season, with the 22-year-old expected to sign a new contract with parent club Manchester United before heading back to South Yorkshire for a second season on loan.
Sharp added: “Dean is a great ‘keeper, he knows the club and he has made it clear he wants to come back. I’ am sure it will get done soon and, if not, we will sign someone else.”
After fronting up in exemplary fashion on and off the pitch during his time as Blades captain, the extra sense of responsibility which will be thrust upon Sharp’s shoulders following the club’s elevation to the Premier League is something that sits well with him.
The Sheffielder was present on Monday at the announcement of Union Standard Group (USG) as United’s new shirt sponsor and the increased focus on the club and rise in profile is something to be firmly embraced, according to Sharp.
He added: “Everyone wants a piece of Sheffield United now, because we are back in the Premier League. We are the only team in Yorkshire there, which is good for us. The club is trying to push on now.
“I do feel extra responsibility now. It is part and parcel of being captain and I like it.
“We want to do the city proud. We do not want to just make the numbers up.
“We want everyone to feel proud of us.”