Is Blades party the start of something big for sleeping giant Sheffield United at Bramall Lane?

Champagne Blades celebrate League One title feat in promotion party at Bramall Lane

WHAT lies behind the supernatural asked a less than mysterious looking guy handing out pamphlets on The Moor? "That's an easy one,” I told him. “Two words: Chris Wilder."

And so began a surreal day as Sheffield United fans flocked to a title party at Bramall Lane. It ended with an inevitable pitch invasion before the players, manager Wilder and his staff embarked on a joyful lap of honour. A stark contrast to the last time the Blades went walkabout. An embarrassment before a few hundred distraught supporters who had bothered to remain at the end of last season’s calamity masterminded by Nigel Adkins.

United will do it all over again on the final day of the season at home to Chesterfield on April 30. Then there's a party for Blades fans in the Peace Gardens on May 2 culminating in players and staff making an open top bus parade from the Lane to the Town Hall for a civic reception.

The hope now Is that history will record this was only the start of something big as the Blades start to repair the damage of more than half a decade in football's backwater and re-establish their potential to join the big time.

Nothing seemed quite what it should be. Monday morning, a  bank holiday and an early lunchtime kick-off. For me a hurried cuppa at 4.30am and brunch at 11. Pubs like The Howard on the way from the station bursting at the seams come 10.30am, beer flowing freely.

Customary furrowed brows accompanied by gallows humour totally absent. Instead all routes to the ground were full of smiling, almost disbelieving faces. Not a nerve twitched. As much as we love them this is not what watching the Blades is usually all about.

Opponents Bradford City, heading for the play-offs, formed a guard of honour as the League One champions emerged from the tunnel for the first time since clinching promotion and then the title, before a crowd of almost 27,000.


The Greasy Chip Butty anthem rang out with gusto reminiscent of when United won promotion to the Premier League in 2006. And it didn't stop there.

Within 13 minutes the Blades were ahead. They went on to produce a complete performance worthy of what turned out to be runaway champions. Comfortable winners; the outcome never in doubt.

The oldest looking linesman I have ever seen, Dave Bryan, actual age 54 but who looked more than well qualified to be in possession of a bus pass, cut a fascinating figure as he patrolled in front of the John Street Stand.

It was a cool Easter Monday. Leon Clarke still felt it necessary to wear winter gloves and clad himself in a combination of black and red Lycra. A balaclava, it seemed,  was all that was missing. But there was nothing soft about his performance.


The man who has played for 17 clubs, including at the other place, continued a spectacular end-of-season renaissance with his side's first and third goals. Since signing for United last summer on the back of  a campaign amassing 18 strikes for Bury, injury had reduced him to a role of cameo striker and, until a fortnight ago, a largely forgotten figure.

Many had long since dismissed the 32-year-old as a makeweight, including Maybe he deserves an apology. His recent re-emergence with five goals in four appearances has changed the general perception. Indeed, his brace against Bradford makes him third top scorer (eight), behind Billy Sharp (27) and Kieron Freeman (ten).



Could Clarke be about to blossom in the Championship? If so it would be akin to gaining an extra player before Wilder has opened his chequebook for summer recruitment.

Skipper and Sheffield-born son of the Kop Billy Sharp, top scorer for a second successive season in his third spell at a club he has supported since childhood, is now one short of 200 career goals. After having ending a seven-match drought, the 31-year-old's personal landmark almost arrived before a massed bank of adoring fans willing the ball into the net. There was a huge intake of breath but his header was easily gathered by Bradford goalkeeper Colin Doyle. United performed like a well oiled machine. Jake Wright, preserving his record of never having played in a losing side in 29 appearances since arriving in the summer, Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham were as solid as a rock at the back. In midfield, John Fleck and Paul Coutts demonstrated once again why they have cemented their Championship places as the Blades took their points total to 94 and remain open course to finish with 100.


After 90 minutes of football which brought out the best in everything Wilder has instilled in his team, stadium announcer Gary Sinclair declared "two matches and three minutes added time left in this league". 

As wonderful as it is to watch champions – yes, let’s say it again just because we can – champions perform without shackles and in the spirit of celebration, it can't come soon enough.

The misery of relegation from the Championship followed by six years in League One, five of which were purgatory before the arrival of saviour Wilder, has made sure of that.

In the meantime there is nothing left to do but sit back, enjoy and wait for the curtain to fall on what has been a truly remarkable season.