First it was promotion, then the title and finally reaching 100 points.
But, even after fulfilling all of their footballing objectives last season, Sheffield United are still setting themselves fresh targets.
“The aim now is probably 100 beers in Vegas,” defender Daniel Lafferty admitted. “To try and survive Vegas for four days on Thursday, that’s probably the next goal.
“We’ve got to survive the days before we even get there and God help our livers when we go. But, to be fair, as the gaffer tells us all the time: ‘enjoy it.’ These times don’t come around often to so have to.”
Lafferty, previously of Celtic and Burnley, scored the 89th and final goal of what proved a remarkable eight months at Bramall Lane during Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Chesterfield. The result saw Chris Wilder’s side finish the campaign with a record of 30 wins, 10 draws and only six defeats; the last of which was 18 matches ago.
Lafferty, who travels to Nevada with the rest of his team mates later this week as they celebrate their return to the Championship, said: “Some of the stats we’ve produced this season have been exceptional. They are a credit to the players, the staff and everybody connected with the club.
“We’ve been consistently the best team and I don’t think anybody in the league could argue with that. We’ve scored the most goals in England, out of all the divisions, we’ve set a club record for the number of wins. Other people have stumbled and we’ve just kept on going and stayed focused. We’ve been relentless. Now we can just enjoy it all for a bit.”
That, being relentless, is what set United apart from the rest during Wilder’s first season at the helm. While their nearest rivals Bolton Wanderers and third-placed Scunthorpe lost a combined total of eight times along the finishing straight, United powered home averaging 2.69 points per game since the end of February.
“It was an outstanding way to finish,” Lafferty continued. “If you go back to when we got automatic promotion, the gaffer said there’s a new goal and that was to get 100 points. Obviously it meant we had to win all of them and, to be fair, we’ve done that pretty comfortably with the exception, probably of the last one.”
United’s performance against Chesterfield was, as the Northern Ireland international acknowledged, left much to be desired. Given the celebratory atmosphere inside Bramall Lane, where over 31,000 people gathered to witness Wilder’s squad officially crowned League One champions, it was inevitable they lacked their usual cutting edge. But the manager’s half-time team talk provided a fascinating insight into the psychology behind this promotion push.
“We were far from our best,” Lafferty said. “We didn’t do things we’d done all season. We were a little bit sloppy. But, at half-time, the gaffer came in and gave us an absolute b********g. That’s the standards we’ve set.”