Wilder’s Sheffield side are storming their Premier League debut

By Pete Reily Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/21 20:53:40

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder gestures during a match in Sheffield, England on February 9. Photo: AFP


The football world is excited by the prospect of Sheffield United finishing inside the top four of the English Premier League this season. Rightly so.

It has been a long time since any newly promoted side has surged up the Premier League table in the way that Chris Wilder's Blades side have.

That novelty is exciting for everyone. No matter their views on Sheffield United, one of the founder members of the Football League, more than a century ago.

The Blades have certainly impressed on their debut season in the English Premier League but they are not unusual in doing so. So how far and how high can they actually begin to dream? Where does it end?

While Liverpool are too far off from anyone to catch them, or so it seems, but until it is mathematically impossible, no one should give up. That includes Sheffield United, whose own ambitions might well be aimed realistically lower than becoming champions for a first time since the 1897-98 season. The club finished one position behind champions in both the season before their only league title and again in 1899-1900, but true success has been reached.

Several other clubs before them have shown their steel in a first full season among the English elite and troubled the elite all the way. This is how they get on.

Newcastle United - 3rd in 1993-94

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle side came up as free-scoring champions and started as they meant to go on after their arrival in the top flight. The Toon Army changed nothing after going up, as evidenced by Andy Cole scoring 34 goals and adding 13 assists - topping both charts and winning PFA Young Player of the Year along the way. Peter Beardsley, newly arrived to his boyhood club from Everton, made the PFA Team of the Year ahead of Cole, the only Newcastle player to do so in a season where they recorded a 7-1 win over Swindon Town. The pair netted 65 goals between them over a season where they qualified for the UEFA Cup, a first return to European competition since the 1970s. Keegan's side would go close to winning the title a season a year later when an Eric Cantona-inspired Manchester United side pipped them to the title.

Nottingham Forest - 3rd in 1994-95

Despite having lost Brian Clough as manager, Frank Clark took the helm at the City Ground and did what his predecessor never could. Clark took the newly promoted side to fourth in the Premier League thanks to the outstanding goal contribution of Stan Collymore, who scored 22 times in the league campaign. The arrival of Dutch international Bryan Roy, one of the first high profile foreign signings in the early Premier League era, was among the contributing factors. The winger proved a bargain signing from Italian side Foggia in the summer.

Blackburn Rovers - 4th in 1992-93

While other promoted teams would never go on to reach the heights of being crowned champions of England, that was not to be the fate of the Lancashire side who had come up from the First Division under Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish. 

"King Kenny," as the Rovers' faithful came to call the Scotsman, did well in his first season back in the top flight since leading Liverpool to a title in 1990. 

They would finish second the following campaign before Dalglish and Rovers would win the league in the 1994-95 season.

Ipswich Town - 5th in 2000-01

The Tractor Boys finished fifth in the first season of the new millennium and in doing so became the most successful newly promoted team of recent history. George Burley's side were a revelation on their return to the top flight, finishing one win away from Liverpool in third and a spot in the UEFA Champions League. The goals came from Marcus Stewart, the only Ipswich player to reach double figures across the season, who scored 19 in the Premier League. Stewart was also named the club's Player of the Year.

Wolverhampton Wanderers - 7th in 2018-19

The West Midlands side, owned by Chinese company Fosun, became the poster boys of a new regime with their first Premier League season last year. A deal between their owners and superagency Gestifute, made famous by Cristiano Ronaldo's right-hand man Jorge Mendes, aided the Premier League new boys. However, their success was in large part down to their Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who plucked players from the relative obscurity of the Portuguese league to become internationals and some of the most highly rated players in world football. Former Barcelona winger Adama Traore might be the biggest case in point, with the attacker becoming a cult hero at Molineux while developing into a player linked to some of the biggest clubs in European football.

Reading - 7th in 2006-07

Steve Copell's side missed out on the UEFA Cup by just one point in the season they came up from the Championship as champions with 106 points. Leroy Lita and Kvin Doyle scored the goals to make sure the Royals shone in the top flight. It all started with a 3-2 comeback win over Middlesbrough. The Berkshire side had come up from the second tier with a record 106 points and they made their presence felt when they went up to the Premier League. That remains the club's highest ever finish.

West Ham United - 9th in 2005-06

The Hammers came up through the playoffs, sneaking in sixth place, but once they arrived back in the Premier League they never looked back. Their season peaked with a win over London rivals Spurs to deny the latter a Champions League spot. The Hammers also made it to the FA Cup Final where they lost to a Steven Gerrard-inspired Liverpool.
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