SHEFFIELD United captain Michael Doyle says the race for promotion to the Championship has lifted an air of doom and gloom from the Steel City.
With only a single point separating the Blades and the Owls in the top three of League One, the neighbours are locked in a battle for local bragging rights as well as an escape from the third tier of English football.
Doyle scored his first goal for the Blades in Tuesday’s 4-0 home victory over Yeovil – almost 12 months after his arrival from Coventry City.
The result lifted the Blades back into second spot after the pain of relegation at the end of last season.
“It’s great to look at the table this season,” said Doyle. “Especially when you look at the doom and gloom that was around last season when the club was not successful and fighting a relegation battle.
“Sheffield Wednesday also had a disappointing second half of the season and tailed off – but now we are both pushing for those top two spots and it’s great for the city.
“As players, it’s great to be winning games, feeling confident, and going out and playing some great stuff,” he said.
“For the fans, it must be great having that rivalry and over-taking each other. It’s just what we need. It’s great to have a bit of success for both sides. It puts a bit of spice into it.”
After finally ending his goal drought, Doyle admitted that he needs to score more often.
“It is something I am conscious of,” he said. “The manager set us all targets this season and I needed to score more goals from midfield if we wanted to do something in this league.
“I used to get seven or eight a season so I know I have definitely got it in my locker. I feel I have been getting in the positions this season but I just haven’t been taking the chances.
“Hopefully, now I have got the first I will kick on.
“It’s a sign of success when you have everyone adding goals and you are not just relying on the strikers. It takes the pressure off them and if we keep doing that we will be successful.”
The Blades visit Bury on Saturday before taking on leaders Charlton away on January 21.
They have won 10 of their last 11 games in all competitions but lost their last away trip 3-2 at Carlisle United. “The next two games are massive,” said Doyle. “On our last outing away from home we were disappointed to lose at Carlisle. It was a game we should have won.
“We beat Bury quite comfortably in September but it will be very different game now. We know what we have to do and we want to get back on a run.”
Doyle says the Bramall Lane pitch has become a cause of concern in recent weeks due to a deterioration in the quality of the playing surface.
“It’s really hard to play on because it is cutting up,” he said. “We are getting used to it now, though, so, over the course of the season, it will hopefully work in our favour and not against us.”