The English Premier League is not often a romantic place for smaller clubs who rise from the lower leagues but Sheffield United are hoping to become the feelgood story of the 2019-2020 season.
The club is following on where teams like Blackpool left off after their thrilling single season in the English top-flight a decade ago. The Blades are hoping to go one better than Ian Holloway’s Blackpool and stay in the Premier League where the Tangerines were relegated by a single point on the last day of the season.
One of the most annoying things for United fans to sit through is the continuing shock of football experts who have not followed the growth going on in Sheffield over recent seasons. One of the major problems for United is the fact they are managed by a former player who admits he is a fan of the club and dreamed of coaching at Bramall Lane as a child. In an era where it is not fashionable to give a coaching opportunity to a local manager, Chris Wilder is a throwback to earlier times in English football when most managers were British.
The surprise at the attacking play of Sheffield United in the Premier League is not shared by those fans who have spent hours watching the team at Bramall Lane. Fighting back for a 2-2 draw against Chelsea in the final game before the first international break of the season gave pundits who rarely monitor games in the Championship and below in English football a glimpse at the innovations undertaken by Wilder since taking over the club. Former Liverpool midfielder, Jamie Redknapp went so far as to say Wilder was the most innovative and forward-thinking coach in the top flight.
Of course, the Chelsea game came at the end of August when the novelty of The Blades in the English Premier League is still in place and the relentless pressure of the season has yet to take hold. Much has been made of the decision of Wilder to turn his three center-backs into two overlapping defenders making their way forward to often leave just one defender at the back. Turning defender Chris Basham into an attacking force in the Premier League may be the act Wilder remains known for but he deserves more plaudits than he is currently getting from experts at the moment.
Wilder could see his team improved even more in the coming weeks if he can turn former Manchester United starlet, Ravel Morrison, into a top-flight player for the first time. Morrison was seen as the better prospect when he played at youth level alongside Paul Pogba before personal problems derailed his career.
Adding quality throughout The Blades squad is key to their hopes for survival in the English Premier League with Morrison starring in a 2-1 League Cup victory in his full debut with Wilder full of praise for the former Lazio midfielder. If Wilder can perform another miracle and turn Ravel Morrison into a powerful player for Sheffield United, the team has the chance to flourish in the top flight of English football.