You don’t have to dig that far into the archives to find pre-season predictions of Sheffield United’s doom.
On the face of it they might seem sensible: a club with precisely zero star names, managed by a man who’d never experienced the Premier League before, who had been in League One as recently as 2017.
But if you’d watched Chris Wilder’s side in the Championship last season, you’d know they had more about them than that. Those predictions of relegation were made to look silly some time ago, but they have surely surpassed even their most optimistic supporters’ imaginations, and after they blew Chelsea away at the weekend, our panel set out just how good the Blades have been.
“[They were relentless] literally from the very first whistle – they forced a corner after about 15 seconds,” said Matt Davies-Adams. “It almost feels like you’re damning them with faint praise when you say their intensity was good and they’re very well organised, because they also have very good footballers in their team.
“But it was that organisation and spirit that helped them wipe the floor with Chelsea.
“They have absolutely no right, in terms of conventional wisdom, to be having the kind of season they’re having. Particularly given that they wobbled after the restart, they’ve managed to pick it back up again, beating Wolves, Spurs and Chelsea, all teams with higher aspirations than Sheffield United would’ve had at the start of the season.
“They are exceptional and I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how they do next season, particularly if they end up in the Europa League.
“They’re one of the stories of the season: if Liverpool hadn’t won the league, it would have been all about Sheffield United.”
Their powers of recovery recently have been particularly impressive, bouncing back to enjoy this sort of performance having lost three of their first four games after the restart.
“It shows the high standard we were judging them by that we were all worried about them after losing three games,” said Daniel Storey. “That’s normally the standard for promoted clubs, and in the space of (a very long) year, they’ve altered those perceptions.”
And in a wider context, Michael Cox noted that we should really be thinking about this season in comparison to the other great stories in the last few decades.
“We really have to start talking about the job Chris Wilder has done as maybe one of the most impressive in the Premier League era, never mind just this season. With all due respect to this side, there aren’t many of those players looking for a transfer out of the Championship.
“With no disrespect to them, this is a Championship squad: you look at Norwich, Villa and Bournemouth and they have players there who are really highly rated and sought after by the big clubs. You don’t really have that with Sheffield United, and yet they’re outplaying really good sides, they’re ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham in the table.
“It would be brilliant if they qualified for Europe for the first time in their history – not just because it would be great for them, but I’d love to see them against some of the European giants in terms of the tactical battle.
“I can’t get enough of Sheffield United. They’ve been a brilliant story.”
Otherwise, you can listen to the latest edition of the Totally Football Show here, and even better you can subscribe here. If you wish to reproduce any of the material in this article or from the podcast you are very welcome to, but please credit The Totally Football Show and include this link.