Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder brushed off talk of Europe but has admitted for the first time that he expects the Blades to be a Premier League club again next season.
Wilder’s team have been the surprise package of the campaign. Many tipped them for an immediate return to the Championship but the club’s first top-flight season for 12 years has been a resounding success to date, with the side sitting sixth in the table.
Their lofty position has raised the possibility of qualifying for Europe. The Blades are firmly in contention for a Europa League spot and are just five points adrift of the Champions League places.
Survival was the aim following promotion and they are currently on 36 points – one more than the tally required to stay up last season.
Ahead of Sunday’s home game against Bournemouth, Wilder said: “It’s a push for the next three points, and that’s it at this stage.
“I’m not going to mug you off as for a newly-promoted side 40 has always been a big number for everybody. Do I think we’ll get there? Yes, of course, and when we do get there we can plan.
“I believe we will get those points, because of the attitude of the players and the performances of the team. After that it is the next point or the next three points, because supporters don’t want to see you take your foot off the gas.
“They pay their hard-earned money to come and watch you home and away and they want to see fully-committed performances because when you pull that shirt on they expect – and I expect it from my players every time they put that Sheffield United shirt on.
“It will be full tilt from us right until the end of the season, regardless of the competition and regardless of who we play.”
The catalyst for the Blades’ success so far in the Premier League was Billy Sharp’s 88th-minute equaliser at Bournemouth on the opening day of the season.
Recalling that 1-1 draw back in August, Wilder said: “It was very important as a newly-promoted side to get the season up and running. We got a late equaliser down there and those sorts of goals always feel like winners.
“There was a lot of apprehension going into the first game of the season. Bournemouth are an excellent side and established Premier League club so to get something first time out was good for us, it was a great start.
“But I believe we got our rewards for a very positive second-half performance.”
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