Sheffield United are back in the Premier League for the first time since their unceremonious dumping from the top flight in 2007.
The Blades were relegated by a Carlos Tevez goal for West Ham, despite later revelations that the Argentinian superstar and his compatriot Javier Mascherano were partially owned by businessman Kia Joorabchian, a breach of top flight rules.
Sheffield United appealed their relegation but failed to overturn the demotion, and though they recouped a £20m settlement from West Ham, they’ve failed to recover, and missed out on millions more since.
The Yorkshire side slid to League One and only escaped at the sixth time of asking following three doomed play-off promotion attempts.
Hometown hero Chris Wilder guided the Blades back into the Championship and achieved the unthinkable within two seasons – his Sheffield United side are back in the Premier League.
Wilder faces a tough battle to keep his men in the big time but fans, players and the red and white half of the city will all back him to do exactly that.
RadioTimes.com has rounded up everything you need to know about Sheffield United ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Where did Sheffield United finish last season?
2nd (Championship). An inconsistent run up to Christmas saw the Blades sitting in sixth place.
It certainly wasn’t a poor start for the side who finished 10th the previous year, but it didn’t scream ‘automatic promotion’ form, particularly with Norwich and Leeds swallowing up opponents with unnerving ease.
From Boxing Day onwards, Wilder’s men kicked into another gear as they won 15 of their remaining 23 games and lost just three.
The Blades topped the form table from 26th December 2018 until the end of the season by four points as Leeds, West Brom and Middlesbrough saw their form evaporate.
The top Football League goalscorer this century, Billy Sharp, proved to be the main man for Sheffield United once again as they secured their return to the top table of English football.
Who is Sheffield United’s key player?
Oliver Norwood. Always the Championship master, never the Premier League star.
Norwood helped guide Brighton to promotion before being loaned out to Fulham… where he helped guide the Cottagers to promotion.
Sheffield United, spotting the trend, seized Norwood on loan for the 2018/19 campaign and – you guessed it – he played a key role in leading the Blades to the promised land with seven assists and two goals in just 23 appearances.
He made his deal permanent on New Year’s Day and earned a place in the Championship Team of the Year for his efforts.
Now he will get a hard-earned crack at the Premier League, determined to prove his worth to a newly-promoted side.
Who is Sheffield United’s biggest summer signing?
Lys Mousset (£10m). Norwich have chosen to trust the same bulk of their squad, Aston Villa have signed a small army of new talents, while Sheffield United have dipped their toes in the transfer market somewhere between the two extremes.
Phil Jagielka has returned to the team that created him, while loose cannon Ravel Morrison has been given what may be his final chance to make it in the Premier League.
Championship stars Luke Freeman and Callum Robinson have been added to the ranks, but United’s biggest signing has been Lys Mousset from Bournemouth.
It’s a heavy fee to pay for a striker who made 24 appearances for the Cherries last season but only one from the start.
Mousset found the net only once in 2018/19 and that was a mere consolation as Bournemouth trailed 5-0 to Arsenal.
His overall Cherries record stands at three goals in 58 Premier League starts, with his prior record being 14 in 28 for Le Havre in Ligue 2.
Who is Sheffield United’s manager? Meet Chris Wilder
Sheffield United’s key weapon this season is the man at the helm.
Wilder crafted his team in the Championship while breaking even. His spending over two seasons was entirely written off by David Brooks’ move to Bournemouth last year.
He is a terrific man-manager, a down-to-earth realist who galvanised, sharpened and simply improved his squad without the need to radically overhaul his personnel.
On paper, United’s squad looks to be among the weakest in the Premier League but there are flashes of quality in there and – as Leicester proved in 2016 – a fine system can triumph over sheer quality.
Wilder drifts between a 5-3-2 and 3-5-2 formation with an emphasis on flooding the midfield.
Three centre-backs, two wing-backs capable of dropping deep of pushing up, three central midfielders and two strikers.
It’s a highly attacking system when full-backs George Baldock and Enda Stevens force their way up the flanks, though it remains to be seen whether Wilder sticks with two strikers in an increasingly ‘lone-striker’ division.
Sheffield United fixtures – The start
10th August: Bournemouth (A)
18th August: Crystal Palace (H)
24th August: Leicester (H)
Sheffield United fixtures – The run-in
2nd May: Leicester (A)
9th May: Everton (H)
17th May: Southampton (A)
Full Sheffield United fixture list and TV details here
The fans say…
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What is the mood like among fans going into 2019/20?
Extremely positive. The journey we set upon three years ago under arguably the greatest manager this club has ever seen shows no signs of stopping. Who knows how this season will conclude? We all know one thing and that’s that we’re going to try and enjoy every moment.
It’s been a long 12-year absence from the Premier League for the Blades so it’s been a long time coming. 100% of the fanbase is entirely behind Chris Wilder, his staff and his players.
Who will be your key player this season?
Our success over the past three years under Wilder has been very much a team effort. Wilder has galvanised the group and does what he does best which is get the absolute maximum out of individuals.
I’m really interested to see how the likes of Jack O’Connell and Enda Stevens adapt to regular Premier League football. These two can go right to the top!
John Egan and Ollie Norwood were mainstays in the promotion winning squad last season, with the former securing his THIRD promotion to the promised land on the trot.
Billy Sharp, the true fox in the box, will be eager to get minutes in a league which he’s never really had a chance in. The EFL’s leading scorer this century certainly knows where the back of the net is.
Any young talents to look out for?
Despite not being a permanent player of ours, Dean Henderson is expected to return on loan from Manchester United imminently.
The Blades will have one of the brightest young goalkeepers in the Premier League between the sticks, and his rapport with the fans built from last season allows ‘Hendo’ to ease straight back into the fold.
There aren’t as many young prospects coming out of the famous Sheffield United academy into the first team at the moment, but that’s probably due to the success on the pitch of the first team, as admitted by boss Chris Wilder recently.
Chris Wilder has overseen an incredible rise through the divisions. Now does he have what it takes to keep you up? How far could he take Sheffield United?
Without a shadow of a doubt. Taking his beloved club from the doldrums of League One to England’s top flight in three years, it’s the stuff of dreams. It’s the ultimate managerial fairytale. Don’t underestimate this guy.
Last season’s LMA Manager of the Year, beating the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp to the accolade, is more than just the passionate guy you see on the touchline.
Chris, aided by his incredibly respectable coaching staff, including Alan Knill, have lofty ambitions for this football club. The gaffer wants to cement our place among English football’s elite for years to come. Who knows where or when the ceiling of our success is? Don’t rule anything out under Chrissy.
West Ham at home, West Ham away… looking forward to those games by any chance?
Of course. There’s plenty of fixtures to look forward, but this one will have an added spice to it for sure. A lot water has passed under the bridge in 12 years, and we have met since the ‘Saga’ back in 2007, winning on penalties down at Upton Park in the League Cup in 2014. That was sweet!
Looking forward to it, but more so at Bramall Lane. Not getting too excited about watching a game from the International Space Station when we visit the ‘London Stadium’ in October, or so it will seem that way!
Where will you finish in the Premier League?
The million dollar question! Feeling relatively confident that we’ll put up a superb fight and surprise maybe a few teams just like we did upon our return to the Championship a couple of years ago.
I’ll go for a 15th/16th placed finish. Got to feel positive and optimistic. How can’t you be under the guidance of Chrissy Wilder!
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Where will Sheffield United finish? RadioTimes.com says…
Wilder will surely aim to follow Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth blueprint after loosely matching their rise to the top flight.
Both teams enjoying attacking football, both squads are full of players who have remained with the club since League One and both clubs’ ambitions are entirely pinned on their popular managers.
This will be an immensely tricky season for Wilder to navigate, however.
For all Sharp, Robinson and David McGoldrick have Championship pedigree, there’s aways a danger they could fall into the David Nugent halfway house – deserving of a place in a fictitious league between the top two tiers.
Sheffield United enter this season as rank outsiders, achieving survival would guarantee Wilder’s place as Manager of the Year, but with many sides in strong positions ahead of 2019/20, there may be no room for the Blades to cut out a place for themselves.
Predicted 2019/20 position: 20th
NEXT: Can Southampton escape the bottom half and compete with the elite again?