On Sunday, Sheffield United’s promotion back to the Premier League was confirmed following Leeds United’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
The result for third-placed Leeds as well as United’s victory over already-relegated Ipswich on Saturday meant that the Blades ensured their spot in the top flight for the first time since the 2006/2007 campaign.
Chris Wilder’s men, in only their second season back in the Championship after five in the third tier, had consistently been one of the division’s best sides and beat out their Yorkshire rivals Leeds to the Premier League punch.
The Blades manager deserves an endless amount of credit for where he’s taken Sheffield United from (11th in League One) to where he’s taken them to (the Premier League) after just two and half seasons.
What’s even more impressive is what he’s done with a very limited budget and the quality he has acquired for little to nothing, over the last few seasons.
A large chunk of that quality he has brought to the club have been Irish, with David McGoldrick, John Egan, Enda Stevens and Scott Hogan all having huge roles to play in Sheffield United’s promotion this season
If we start with the defence, Enda Stevens was one of Wilder’s first signings when he came to the club and has been consistently improving year on year at Bramall Lane.
Stevens has played 44 games this season missing just one and his role in the way Wilder sets up his side has been absolutely crucial.
The 28-year old has been as solid as they come in the left-wing back role while also becoming an excellent attacking outlet for the Blades.
His deliveries from his side have been outstanding and have led to Stevens picking up seven assists while he has come up in the clutch with goals for the Blades when they required them most grabbing three in his last five games during a crucial period.
Stevens’ ability to slot into the back three when one of either Egan, Chris Basham or Jack O’Connell is out injured is also a huge testament to his versatility and importance to the team.
Also in the backline has been the aforementioned John Egan, the exact kind of statement signing that United required for their promotion push this campaign.
In the back-three along with Basham and O’Connell, he has helped Wilder’s side to the best defensive record in the division conceding just 39 goals in 45 games so far this season.
Egan has also proven himself to be a leader in this side, after coming to the club under the weight of being their record signing at £4 million leaving a Brentford side which he captained and looked to have a promising future at.
Making the move to Bramall Lane has certainly paid off for the Cork man and it’s no surprise that his arrival coincided with such a strong campaign defensively for the Blades.
Another man brought in during the summer was former Ipswich Town striker David McGoldrick who had been told by the new manager at Portman Road, Paul Hurst that he would not be part of his plans this season.
McGoldrick was signed on a free and has revitalised his career while bringing a spark to the Sheffield United frontline alongside and in the absence of fellow veteran striker Billy Sharp
The 31-year old has managed 15 goals, his highest ever return in the second tier and has been an integral part of United’s promotion push this season.
Crucially McGoldrick’s goals have also translated to points for the Blades this campaign with his side winning 12 of the 13 games he has scored in – an unbelievable return.
It hasn’t just been his goals that have been crucial though, as Chris Wilder explained following their win against Nottingham Forest, McGoldrick has been a leader since his arrival at the club.
“David was positive. He’s been amazing for us. He’s experienced at international level and he’s been a calming influence in the group.
“There’s not an unbelievable amount of Championship football experience, let alone top end, in there. So he’s stepped in. He’s stepped in with the skipper being out and played a huge part with the players. He’s been outstanding.”
Chris Wilder also brought in Aston Villa’s forgotten man Scott Hogan on loan in January and the 27-year old has added some quality depth to the promotion-chasing side.
Hogan had only managed 68 minutes at Villa all season but was highly involved starting five games and making a host of appearances off the bench adding something different to the Sheffield United frontline.
He has also grabbed two goals since his arrival at Bramall Lane, with his finish against Ipswich on Saturday the goal that kicked off their promotion party.
It’s hard to know whether Wilder and Sheffield United will have money to spend in the summer but given the quality he has acquired without splashing the cash it may not make much of a difference.
The Blades achieved promotion with a hard-working squad as their Irish contingent helped them reach the promised land for the first time in 13 years.