Prior to this season, it had been a long 12 years for Sheffield United. Since making their return to the Premier League, however, they have been a breath of fresh air.
But as much as their tactical approach and unshakeable team spirit has been enjoyable to watch since August, it doesn’t usually count for much unless you can back it up with the requisite ability to get results.
Fortunately enough for Chris Wilder’s men, they certainly have that. Saturday’s draw with Tottenham was enough to put them in fifth place at the 12-game mark, and though they’ve won just four games in that time, they have a defensive record bettered only by Leicester and matched only by Liverpool. Their lofty position is a long way from false.
They seem to have the attributes that often elude newly-promoted sides; there is no sign of the naivety that often comes with top-flight inexperience, and they have a grit and resolve deeply-embedded in their attitude that makes them such a difficult side to beat.
That’s reflected, particularly, in their away form. While most sides struggle to match their home record on the road, the Blades have taken just one point fewer away from Bramall Lane than they have taken on home turf since the start of the season.
And that’s nothing new to them. They are now, in fact, unbeaten in 15 away league games (W5 D10) – a run stretching back to January of last season. That equals their club record previously set in April 2009.
They were expected to be the weaker of the three newly-promoted sides, with Norwich and Aston Villa touted to establish themselves while United, it was thought, were headed straight back down. Ready for another stat that blows that one right out of the water? Good.
Sheffield United are only the third newly-promoted side to avoid defeat in each of their opening six away games to a Premier League season, after Blackburn Rovers (first 8 in 1992-93) and Nottingham Forest (first six in 1994-95).
So, there we have it. In a season that has perilously threatened to chip away at the dominance of the traditional top six, it’s Leicester who have made the headlines. But if Sheffield United can keep up their form on the road, then they have every right to keep dreaming that they too could make their mark.
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