United currently stand six points clear of second-placed Bolton Wanderers and 13 ahead of third-placed Fleetwood Town with five games remaining.
It seems unfeasible that a team could make up a 13 point gap and an inferior goal difference with only 15 points to play for, but this is Sheffield United we are talking about. We’ve all seen stranger things than that happen to our club in the past, from getting relegated due to an allegedly fixed match to not going up because our leading scorer got sent to prison for something it was eventually found he didn’t do, and everything imaginable and unimaginable in between.
If United do hold on to top spot after 46 games it will be - somewhat amazingly - the biggest prize United have won in the lifetimes of anybody under pensionable age. The last time United won anything better than this was the Second Division (now the Championship) title in the 1952/53 season. The Fourth Division (League Two) title was won in style in 1981/82. Apart from these, nothing, except for the County Cup and the Yorkshire and Humberside Cup, but we can’t really count either of those as major competitions. Promotions in 1960/61, 1970/71, 1983/84, 1988/89, 1989/90 and 2005/06 were achieved in second or third place. The Bramall Lane trophy cabinet has not been bursting at the seams since about 1902.
Even if United don’t win the division but still go up, it will not be enough to dampen the sense of relief felt by Blades fans at finally getting out of League One after six seasons, the previous five of which ended in miserable fashion. And even if the worst happens and things do go belly up, the fact that Chris Wilder and Alan Knill have restored the faith and unity of the fans after the disillusionment and dissent of the Danny Wilson, David Weir, Nigel Clough and Nigel Adkins eras is achievement enough. Only a couple of hundred fans stayed behind after the last match of last season to witness the players’ “lap of dishonour”, and even if you weren’t one of them you will have read or seen on Youtube how volatile and poisonous the atmosphere was as abuse rained down from the stands. This season, whether United finish first, second or third, it will be much, much different. Those who leave for the pub before the players return to the pitch on that
final Sunday afternoon will number in the dozens, not the many thousands who did that last season.
Whatever happens between now and April 30th, Chris Wilder has given us our club back. For that we should be deliriously happy.