Chris Wilder's Bombastic Blades Rock the Premier League Apple Cart - 2019/20 Season Highlights

The challenge: try and write a piece about Sheffield United without using the phrase 'overl*pping centre-b*cks'.

The obstacle (and an obstacle for dozens of Premier League attackers): Chris Basham.

Between the rampaging Basham and Jack O'Connell, the swashbuckling, stylish full back pairing of George Baldock and Enda Stevens, and the subtle craft of Oliver Norwood, to name but a few, the Premier League has been introduced, or reintroduced in some cases, to a group of unlikely, exciting new protagonists.

Crystal Palace v Sheffield United - Premier League

Next to Daniel Farke's stylish Norwich side, who blew away the Championship, and Aston Villa, who were merely taking an extended hiatus from Premier League action, a handful of pundits, neutrals and arm chair experts had written off the best-of-budget-British Sheffield United before the season had even began.

Even their opening day 1-1 draw had a touch of the FA Cup fourth round upset about it, the local hero Billy Sharp bravely rescues his hometown club a draw, but you know they're going to get blown away in the replay, or in this case, the 37 other replays.

But something funny happened after that gutsy curtain-raiser at the Vitality Stadium - Sheffield United didn't fold, nor did vastly resourced teams start putting them away by four or five goal margins.

Sheffield United v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League

They dispatched Everton, brushed aside Arsenal and ended Mauricio Pochettino's reign at Tottenham with a 1-1 away draw that could well have been a win.

In the most impressive of these results, the Bladesmen were 2-0 down at half time, sinking without trace against a Tammy Abraham-inspired Chelsea side, and you would have been justified in wondering whether they weren't doing what Premier League sides with more pluck than prosperity often do in regressing to the mean.

Sheffield United didn't sparkle here, but after nicking a 46th minute goal through Callum Robinson, held on long enough to equalise in a game where chances were few and far between through a scrappy Kurt Zouma own goal - if their early results indicated that they might be a team to watch, their resilience at Stamford Bridge demonstrated that they were a team here to stay.

Chelsea FC v Sheffield United - Premier League

'We are not day trippers getting autographs and collecting shirts,' Wilder said afterwards, echoing the spirit of comments made in the previous week's defeat to Leicester at Bramall Lane, when the Blades had been clapped off.

Though harsh on day trippers and shirt collectors, Wilder's remarks give us an essential insight into what makes his side tick - while they thoroughly embody the qualities which characterise a promoted side, they refuse to accept that alone as sufficient for top-flight survival.

In one sense, the Blades are the football team that your Dad watches in his dreams - if you watched just ten minutes of their 3-3 draw against Manchester United in November you could clearly see that they fight for every second ball, never stop running and know how to stick it in the mixer, relying on a gifted shot-stopper in Dean Henderson when it all goes pear-shaped.

Wilder - a strong character who demands the proverbial 110%, is equally comfortable delivering a team talk or a press conference and has steadily increased the quality of the squad without upsetting the Bramall Lane dressing room - is suited to cultivating these survival instincts, following in the footsteps of Tony Pulis, Sean Dyche and Sam Allardyce.

Where Wilder differs (if you'll allow a slightly unfair generalisation) from these stalwarts of getting stuck in is that his efforts are underpinned by a philosophy which goes beyond reaching 40 points.

This is an area where assistant manager Alan Knill has been credited, with Sheffield United, going beyond the O-word, genuinely revolutionary in how they create overloads through pouring forward in their droves.

Crystal Palace v Sheffield United - Premier League

It's genuinely tricky for opponents to figure out and compared to the practice of packing the side with size and strength in the hope of taking advantage of set-piece situations, gives a greater window of opportunity for the Blades to take all three points.

Rather than waiting for the ball to drop kindly once or twice a game, United can create openings through the sheer aggression of their own innovation, leading them to more than just safety-securing draws, but the wins which make European football a realistic possibility.

With Sander Berge, one of Europe's hottest and most wanted properties before his January move, yet to settle in, Sheffield United have plenty to look forward to upon football's resumption - and we, the neutral - along with many others - look forward to seeing how they approach things with the graceful tenacity (and inevitability when it comes to summing them up in an article) of their overlapping centre-backs.

Source : 90min