OLIVER NORWOOD may have only been a Sheffield United player for less than 11 months, but he has already grown used to background noise from those who have cast aspersions about their collective capabilities.
The fact that the Blades are busy preparing for their first Premier League campaign in 13 seasons is unlikely to change the narrative from those from the outside who are already choosing to pen their top-flight obituaries.
Speak to those within the inner sanctum of Bramall Lane and the inference is clear that Norwood and company probably would not have things any other way.
Earlier this year, United provided a banquet – let alone mere food – for thought to those who were predicting their ‘demise’ after setbacks against Aston Villa, Bristol City and Millwall, with their instant response by way of wins pointing to outstanding character.
Come season’s end, those in red and white took particular delight at emphatically dispelling suggestions from certain players at Yorkshire rivals Leeds United that their nerve might falter in the Championship run-in.
As they most definitely will again, should their top-flight safety be achieved next May.
With a note of sarcasm and discernible defiance, Norwood said: “If you look at what everyone has been saying, they have already written us off and said we are going back down, which is fine.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but, for us, we were written off last season and we were not going to do it.
“We had ‘bottled’ it at one point, which was quite funny because the other team did.
“It is water off a duck’s back and people are entitled to their opinions.
“I made a comment last year about it being irrelevant – and, to be honest, it is completely irrelevant.
“All the old rubbish. It is going to be same this year, isn’t it?
“We know what we are about as a football club, group of players, management and staff and kind of thrive on being written off and told – even before pre-season started – that we are going to have one season to enjoy it. We will see, come this time next season where we are at.
“We will attack the season and see where we end up.”
Individual motivation for Blades players to prove their point amid Premier League surroundings is also in abundant supply, with Norwood being firmly among that number.
Somewhat of a lucky charm in playing his part in three successive promotion campaigns with United, Fulham and Brighton, the Lancastrian is determined to show that he belongs on the top-flight stage.
Some rest and recuperation following hernia surgery should ensure that he is in pristine physical condition ahead of his maiden season in the top flight after playing through the pain barrier at times last season.
He added: “It feels good. It was December when I picked it up and obviously it was just a case of getting painkillers and managing the week’s training and rolling me out on a Saturday and Tuesday. It worked.
“The plan was to always get it done in the summer, so we were quite relaxed about that. It was just a case of there being a big prize at stake and go and get it.
“We are old enough and wise enough and know what to expect (in pre-season) and the carrot at the end of it is that you are going to play in the Premier League and that is always in the back of your mind.”