Ahead of the season opener at Sheffield United on Saturday we catch up with @Blades_Mad to get the lowdown on our opponents…
Firstly a word on last season. Your first in the Championship since 2010/11. How would rate the campaign overall?
It was a blistering start to the 17/18 Sky Bet Championship campaign for the Blades. Our momentum from romping to the League One title with 100 points the season before most definitely carried on into our first year back in England’s 2nd tier in six years.
It has to be said though that we caught several teams unaware. Did some teams underestimate us? Probably. It wasn’t all about momentum, we actually have a really good side and a manager that has ambitions to coach right at the highest level.
Fair enough we dropped away from the top two around Christmas time but we still spent most of the season in the top six. We had some incredible memories along the way, including putting 4 goals past our rivals Sheffield Wednesday on their own patch, and also doing the double over Leeds.
It wasn’t to be in terms of a play off spot but I think any Blades fan would have taken 10th at the start. A case of what might have been, but it was a very respectable finish for a newly promoted side.
How’s the summer been? Are you happy with comings and goings thus far?
United’s summer transfer window started off pretty quietly in terms of incomings. We signed highly rated Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson relatively early on.
Things went a bit dead after that but things have been ramped up a gear or two now as the season’s first game draws in. We’ve smashed the club’s record transfer fee on Brentford skipper John Egan, who will add top end Championship experience to an ever improving Blades backline. Free agent David McGoldrick has also joined United on a year’s deal after impressing on trial. Not only did his performances in a couple of United’s pre season friendlies impress Chris Wilder (including two goals, one against Inter Milan!), but equally his attitude having offered himself to come and prove himself to United’s coaching staff before any decision was made.
Attitude is a big thing for the Blades boss. Liverpool and Welsh international starlet Ben Woodburn has put pen to paper on a season-long loan at Bramall Lane. United had to fight off stern competition for the youngster from the likes of Aston Villa. I think it’s testament to Chris Wilder and SUFC that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp personally advised Woodburn that his first temporary move away from Anfield would be best served at Sheffield United. Arguably he’s a replacement for fellow Welshman David Brooks, who left Bramall Lane for Premier League AFC Bournemouth.
Any other outgoings thus far have generally been youngsters and fringe players whose paths are very much blocked at this moment in time. If we can keep hold of Jack O’Connell and John Fleck and add another centre forward I think we’ll be well positioned to give the Championship another crack!
Who are your star men and who needs to up their game?
We played so well collectively last season it’s hard to pinpoint individuals, but our best players are the aforementioned Jack O’Connell and John Fleck. The former signed for a decent looking give figure fee, and the latter cost cheaper than a Freddo chocolate bar! Yep, that’s right, free. Coventry fans didn’t seem too fussed losing him at the time but he and Jack have been massively influential on United’s rise from League One and into the top half of the Championship.
Leon Clarke scored 19 goals last term, which raised many eyebrows nationally but admittedly in S2 also, not sure anyone expected the well travelled frontman to be so prolific in England’s second tier. Can he repeat any sort of similar success?
Generally, the fringe players need to apply more pressure to those who will occupy starting berths. I’m thinking the likes of Holmes and Leonard, who both came to the club last January, need to get foothold at Bramall Lane. Neither have had the starts to their Sheffield United careers that they’d hoped, with playing time pretty limited.
Chris Wilder is just starting his third season at the club, how happy are the fans with him and what style of football is his preference?
Relations between the fans and Chris Wilder couldn’t be any better. The best manager we’ve had at the club in many years without a doubt. His enthusiasm for the Blades shines through ten fold, and he’s not bad at his job either!
There was genuine panic that he’d leave United this summer due to the off field shenanigans at board level. Sunderland were strongly courting Wilder, a man who has never been sacked at any of his managerial positions yet. Not many can say that! But everyone is really happy our future is with CW, and whilst off field matters are far from resolved, our future is in very safe and promising hands with Wilder. He has lofty ambitions. He’s one of our own!
What are you aims and expectations this term?
Hard to say really. A 10th placed finish last term was very respectable. Something similar would also be considered as a good season, but Wilder wants more than a good season. He wants more than 10th. He knows we weren’t far away last season, and I’m sure he’ll fancy going a little step further this year. Don’t write anything off with him in charge!
What are your thoughts on Swansea and which players are you wary of?
The Swans have spent much of their time in the Premier League in recent years, a great achievement when you consider the money being banded about at that level.
Despite a late resurgence under Carlos Carvahal it wasn’t quite enough, but I do like the appointment of Graham Potter an awful lot. He’s had his success the hard way having had to go to Sweden and manage, and what a job he did there. Was time he got a shot back in the English leagues and he’s got himself a good job, although a tricky one also.
The Swans’ best players may not stick around by the sound of things, but there’s still some quality in that squad. I’ve seen some quarters write you off but I wouldn’t be so sure. Top six is a good bet I reckon.
Predict the score and where both teams will finish?
A packed Bramall Lane, live on the box, first game of the season…feeling confident about it! I’ll go for 2:1 Blades. As just mentioned, I reckon the Swans might just get into that top six. As for United, another top half/mid table finish is probable, but who knows. 10th is a decent shout!