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Happy to be wrong on the Wild bunch; STAN COLLYMORE Football's ultimate maverick sounds off.

IT WON'T come as any surprise that I've copped some stick from Sheffield United fans these past few months after predicting they would finish bottom of the table.

I still don't think that was too crazy a call, given most of their players had never played in the Premier League.

Most were bought for modest e sums, and none were huge signings that you knew could automatically handle the top flight.

But still, I never mind holding my hand up and saying, 'Yeah, I was 100 per cent wrong', and I'm more than happy to on this occasion.

The fact the Blades go into today's clash with Bournemouth in sixth place shows what incredible management they've had from Chris Wilder, and is a credit to their players as well.

ll. elief Wilder quickly instilled a belief in his men that they could compete at this level and were not just here to make up the numbers.

They have played positive, front-foot football throughout the team, not least their full-backs, with Enda Stevens (inset, bottom) and George Baldock (inset, top) impressing. What's obvious is that Wilder made it clear they had to do what they set out to do every week in training. And if they didn't, then there would be trouble.

He dug out keeper Dean Henderson and a couple of others for mistakes, and got the response he expected.

p fin And now they have got themselves in a position where a top-eight finish is all but certain, a top six is doable and even a top four is an outside possibility.

fp Un What is certain is that if United do finish in the top six then it will be up there among the great stories.

th gr Le thM1w It wouldn't be the miracle of Leicester, but it would be in the same ballparks as Manchester City reaching 100 points and Liverpool winning the title by 15 to 20 clear points - because of the consistency and belief they have carried through the Premier League this season.

cle consi th Already, their achievements have reopened the debate about the best promoted team ever.

Some people gave Wolves that moniker last season, but that's disrespectful to the Nottingham Forest team I was part of in 1994-95.

We finished third, higher than Wolves last season and higher than Sheffield United will finish this season, so I hope we will start to get the respect we deserve. We had a swagger these sides haven't got as well.

Even so, their achievements these last two seasons highlight, 25 years on, how rare and wonderful it is to see promoted teams doing so well.

What the Blades will find now is that this stage of the season is the easy part, because they have played everybody and know what they have to offer.

They've recorded some good results against the bigger teams and can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and a good positional finish.

Wilder can ask his men every week, 'Does anyone scare you?' And the answer will always be, 'No'.

I still expect the big guns to flex their muscles and seal off the top four, so the challenge is for United to pin down a Europa League spot.

It's over to you, boys. If you can do it then you'll deserve to be talked about alongside that Forest team.


MASTER CLASS Chris Wilder is still on a roll but may find it hard to eclipse Jurgen Klopp

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2020
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