SHEFFIELD UNITED celebrated clinching the League One title with a request to the club’s owners for a trip to Las Vegas.
Players congregated at their Shirecliffe training base and followed Bolton Wanderers progress at Oldham knowing that if the Trotters failed to win, the title for the already promoted Blades would be heading to Bramall Lane.
Despite having striker Michael Ngoo dismissed in the 64th minute, OIdham’s Lee Erwin scored with 14 minutes of normal time remaining. The 1-0 defeat for Bolton, their second in three days as they chase automatic promotion, ensured Phil Parkinson’s side could not overhaul United’s 91 points total with three matches remaining.
Blades boss Chris Wilder, who has masterminded an extraordianary transformation in his 11 months at the club, said: “Now they are talking about Las Vegas. I don’t know if [co-owners] Kevin [McCabe] and the Prince [Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud] know that the boys want to go to Las Vegas.”
Defender Chris Basham, whose form and career have flourished under Wilder, added: “I’m hoping that’s what’s going to happen. We’ve got to get this job done first and hopefully we can go out and celebrate as a group, everybody that’s been involved with this football club from the inside.”
Wilder added: “It’s been an amazing season and a fantastic achievement from everybody. Well deserved without a shadow of a doubt. It’s been a funny old day for us today but we deserve to be the number one team in this division.
“It’s going to be fabulous on Monday [at home to former Blade Stuart McCall’s Bradford City] and we’re all looking forward to it. I think the club is back together and going forward.”
Midfield man Mark Duffy, signed by Wilder and who has made a key contribution, said: “It’s unbelievable. We’ve had a really good season. We started slow but once we got into the groove of things the league doesn’t lie, we’ve been by far the best team. It took us a while to get going, we were a new team, but once we did get going we were hard to stop.
“We had little blips but the sign of a good team is that when you do have a blip you go on a good run. Consistently we have been the better team home and away and we have got our just rewards.
“Last year I went up [to the Championship] with Burton which was fantastic. A different type of team, we defended really well and counter-attacked. This team, we’ve dominated 90 per cent of the games we’ve played in. This team can go into the Championship, in my opinion, full of confidence.”
Defender Jack O’Connell, another Wilder addition who has delievered, said of the lunchtime kick-off at Boundary Park which he and his teammates followed on Twitter: “It was longest hour-and-a-half of my life to be honest. When [Oldham] got a man sent off we thought it’s only a matter of time [before Bolton scored]. But Oldham got the goal.”
On being part of a title-winning team, he added: “It’s massive. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I know the gaffer has set us a target of 100 points so we can’t take our foot off the gas. Hopefully we can take our momentum into the Championship.”
Basham was expecting his former club Bolton to win at Oldham and prolong United’s wait to claim the title. “I didn’t expect it to be today to be honest.”
Now he is looking forward to the party in front of a packed Bramall Lane on Easter Monday which is being televised live on Sky. “Everybody will be prepared for Monday,” he said. “We’re going to celebrate in front of 28,000 Blades fans.
“When you’ve got momentum like we’ve got at the moment and you’re winning games like we are it’s enjoyable just to go out and play every week. We wish we could play every day and I’ve never said that before at this club. It feels fantastic and credit to the gaffer and the staff and obviously the boys as well.”
Basham, of course, has been part of regimes that have brought huge disappointment, not least last season under Nigel Adkins. United stumbled to 11th, their lowest league finish for 33 years in what captain Billy Sharp described last week as an “embarrassment”.
“It’s been a massive rollercoaster,” said Basham. “Last year was very sad year for me personally and for the boys and for everybody involved with Sheffield United. Now you are looking at such a high from a player’s point of view. But looking at it from a fan’s [point of view] and how much this club means to everybody, a lot of the boys downstairs have never been at a club like this before. I haven’t and I’m absolutely relishing every moment."
Like his boss, lifetime Blades supporter Sharp, top scorer for the second successive season with 26 goals and who needs two more for 200 career goals, said: “I wish I could just do what every Sheffield United fan will be doing right now. But we’ve got three games left.
“With three games to go it’s absolutely brilliant [that the title is won]. The way we started the season, four games, bottom of the league, one point and now to be 12 points clear [at the top]. So when it’s big margins, credit to the gaffer and his staff for how hard they’ve worked and kept grinding out the results this past few months.
“I wouldn’t put it past us now to get the nine points and get [a total of] 100 points. If we lose all three, who cares? I’m sure the gaffer would care and [of course] we do as well but if we didn’t, then we’re [still] promoted and League One champions.”