CHRIS WILDER, the Sheffield United manager, has challenged his players to dominate the Steel City for years to come.
Premier League football returns to Bramall Lane tomorrow after a 12-year absence as Crystal Palace head to south Yorkshire.
United’s promotion means a worldwide audience spread across more than 100 countries will be tuning in and Wilder wants his side to showcase all that is good about the red and white half of Sheffield.
“I want us to dominate this city,” said the 51-year-old lifelong Blades fan.
“I might get battered for (saying) that. But I see our shirts now and I want to see more.
“I want us to be the leading light in this city. I want us to dominate it and create new memories for our supporters.
“Hopefully, we can create new experiences and new memories for a younger generation of Sheffield United supporters. This group has given us some fantastic days and we want that to continue.
“I keep saying, ‘This is a completely different level’. But we are up for the fight and enjoying it.
“We have earned the right to be here. The next hurdle is to earn the right to stay here and prolong our future in the division.
“Being an old traditionalist – and this being my football club – I want people to begin to understand this football club and what it has.
“Not just nationally, but globally, too.”
The season may be only in its infancy but both Sheffield clubs have cause to smile.
United started life back in the big time with a deserved draw at Bournemouth on the opening day, while Wednesday sit on top of the fledgling Championship table with a maximum six points.
With the Lane set to return to the global stage after a £5m summer refurbishment to comply with Premier League standards, Wilder admits his side’s rise has been a sharp one.
“One hundred per cent, our ground has to be (a fortress),” he said. “We spent six years in League One, then inside three years we are back in the Premier League.
“We are not a Wolves, who set themselves up to be mid-table Premier League.
“The pace of it here, I know why we are one of the biggest favourites to go down. I am fine with that.
“We went from mid-table League One to the Premier League in three years. It has been incredible.”
Central to that remarkable recovery has been the bond forged between those who play and those who pay to watch from the stands.
Creating that togetherness was not easy, the relationship between fans and players having become so toxic as recently as May, 2016, that the team was jeered loudly by those who stayed behind for the final day lap of appreciation.
Wilder, who took over later that summer, added: “When I came back, there was not a connection between the players and the supporters. It was at an all-time low.
“The players probably hated the supporters and the supporters probably hated the players. Every part of the football club hated each other. The biggest thing I had to try to do was reconnect things.
“I know, from history, when this club is together it is a powerful football club. If it is all together, we give ourselves a realistic chance.
“The supporters will be 100 per cent on our side. I think they will give these boys more backing that any other team that has played for Sheffield United in the past 20 to 25 years.”
With back-to-back home games coming up – Leicester City are the visitors a week today – United have a chance to build on that encouraging opening day draw at Bournemouth.
“We have to make Bramall Lane the most difficult of places to visit,” added Wilder, whose side have won 44 and lost just 13 of his 69 home league games in charge.
“It won’t be flooded changing rooms, with cold tea and everything that used to happen in the old days. Crystal Palace will get a hospitable welcome. We have tarted the place up a bit as well.
“But, on the pitch, we want to make it a difficult and uncomfortable place to get a result. That has happened over the last three years. It has got to carry on.”