CRACK­ING DERBY TO SAVOUR AS BLADES CEL­E­BRATE TI­TLE

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Richard Sut­cliffe CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER Email: richard.sut­cliffe@ypn.co.uk Twitter: @RSootyYPS­port

AHEAD of what is cer­tain to be a huge homecoming party for his ti­tle-win­ning he­roes, Chris Wilder ad­mits the enor­mity of Sh­effield United’s achieve­ment is only likely to sink in when the play­ers run out be­fore kick-off.

The Blades host Brad­ford City in front of the live Sky cam­eras with the cham­pi­onship al­ready se­cured thanks to their Good Fri­day win over Port Vale and Bolton Wan­der­ers’ de­feat at Old­ham Ath­letic the fol­low­ing day.

A bumper crowd is ex­pected for a derby en­counter that has big ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the pro­mo­tion­chas­ing Ban­tams and Wilder, a life­long United fan, ad­mits today is likely to be an emo­tional one.

“Our suc­cess hasn’t sunk in yet,” the 49-year-old told The York­shire Post. “I have said to a few peo­ple in the past week that I don’t think it will un­til we next play at home.

“We have had glimpses of what it means to the fans, we were back at Bra­mall Lane on the Satur­day night af­ter Northamp­ton (when pro­mo­tion was sealed nine days ago) and there was a sup­port­ers’ club night on.

“So, we got a taste of what pro­mo­tion means to the fans. I also went out on the Sun­day and saw a few of my pals, and they were all de­lighted.

“But I don’t think we will see ex­actly what it means un­til the Brad­ford game. The day should be some­thing spe­cial.

“Brad­ford need to get some­thing to reach the play-offs, while we want to fin­ish strongly. It should be a crack­ing game and a great at­mos­phere – and if it is any­thing like the first game at Valley Pa­rade (that fin­ished 3-3 in Oc­to­ber) then ev­ery­one is in for a real treat.

“That was a great game of foot­ball played be­tween two teams who were de­ter­mined to win. I would imag­ine this will be the same.”

The week­end re­sults brought United their first ti­tle suc­cess in 35 years.

That came in the old Fourth Divi­sion at the end of a sea­son in which the Ban­tams were also pro­moted in the run­ners-up spot. A re­peat is still a pos­si­bil­ity this time around, even if sec­ond­placed Bolton hold a four-point ad­van­tage over the Ban­tams in fourth place.

As for the play-offs, Stu­art McCall’s men need just four points to guar­an­tee a sec­ond tilt at win­ning pro­mo­tion via Wem­b­ley in as many years, some­thing that Sh­effield-born Rory McAr­dle be­lieves is good news for not just Brad­ford but the whole county.

“York­shire foot­ball is bounc­ing at the mo­ment with so many teams do­ing well,” said the de­fender. “Don­caster have been fly­ing in the league be­low us, as have Sh­effield United in League One.

“I also look at the Cham­pi­onship and so many clubs from the county are do­ing well. Hud­der­s­field Town are hav­ing a huge sea­son, as are quite a few oth­ers.

“That is why it would be great if we could get a few more York­shire sides in the Cham­pi­onship. The ri­val­ries are huge and the der­bies are al­ways great.”

Striker James Han­son, who left Valley Pa­rade for the Lane in a £150,000 deal last Jan­uary, is ex­pected to line up against his former club.

McAr­dle added: “In my time here, ‘Hans’ was the one who had been here the long­est and some­one we all went to.

“As friends, we have chat­ted since he left. We spent a lot of time to­gether on the coach and at the train­ing ground so I am pleased things have worked out for him.”

United man­ager Wilder, mean­while, will today be rightly lauded for his work in end­ing the club’s six-year stay in League One.

He added: “On a per­sonal level, it will be an emo­tional day for me. It was at Northamp­ton last week, and the emo­tions were all there against Coven­try in our last home game, too.

The at­mos­phere in the ground that night was un­be­liev­able, es­pe­cially for a mid­week game. It just felt like we were on the verge of some­thing spe­cial.”

Asked about the chant ‘he’s one of our own’ that has been sung at Wilder by fans dur­ing the run-in, the former Lane ball­boy added: “Hav­ing my name sung like that is great recog­ni­tion from the fans and I re­ally do ap­pre­ci­ate it.

“I know this club and the sup­port­ers. I also know the game pretty well and know things don’t al­ways go right.

“That is why we have to en­joy mo­ments like this, as they don’t come along too of­ten.

“This pro­mo­tion was al­ways go­ing to be that bit more spe­cial to me and some­thing that meant that lit­tle bit more be­cause of my con­nec­tions with the club. Hav­ing said that, this is not over yet.”

It hasn’t sunk in yet... The day should be some­thing spe­cial. Blades chief Chris Wilder af­ter Bolton’s de­feat se­cured them the ti­tle.

BRAD­FORD CITY man­ager Stu­art McCall last night in­sisted the Jan­uary trans­fer of James Han­son to cham­pi­ons Sh­effield United was a “win-win” for both clubs.

The Blades striker will today meet his former club for the first time since call­ing time on his seven-and-a-half year stint at Valley Pa­rade.

Man­ager Chris Wilder’s faith in Han­son has since been re­warded by United go­ing on to clinch pro­mo­tion and the ti­tle, fol­low­ing Bolton’s de­feat at Old­ham, while City were able to use the ini­tial £150,000 pay­ment to part­fi­nance their own ac­qui­si­tion of Charlie Wyke.

His seven goals in 14 starts have helped keep the Ban­tams not only on course for the play-offs, but also in with a chance of sneak­ing into the top two, which is why McCall feels the sur­prise de­par­ture of Brad­ford-born Han­son to Bra­mall Lane has worked in the favour of both York­shire clubs.

“Charlie has been every­thing we hoped he would be and more,” the Valley Pa­rade chief told The York­shire Post ahead of today’s tele­vised derby.

“He was al­ways on the radar, but I had never man­aged to see him live. The plan was to look at Charlie in the flesh for Carlisle a cou­ple of times be­tween now and the end of the sea­son with a view to pos­si­bly sign­ing him in the sum­mer.

“But then a twist came when we got a bid out of the blue from Sh­effield United for James Han­son. That meant we needed to re­act quickly and bring some­one in to re­place James. Charlie was the one we wanted.”

City’s pur­suit of Wyke proved to be a drawn-out af­fair de­spite a re­lease clause in the striker’s con­tract at Brun­ton Park be­ing trig­gered by the League One club bid­ding £250,000.

The Cum­bri­ans ini­tially re­fused to con­firm or deny the pres­ence of the clause and the deal stalled amid talk of in­ter­est from other clubs, in­clud­ing one in the Cham­pi­onship.

McCall, how­ever, stood firm and, shortly be­fore the Jan­uary win­dow closed, fi­nally got his man. His pa­tience has since been re­warded by a string of im­pres­sive dis­plays from Wyke that have left his man­ager de­lighted.

“The deal went on longer than we an­tic­i­pated, but he has done re­ally well,” added the former Scot­tish in­ter­na­tional.

“His goals record is good, but it is his all-round play, too, that we like. Even in train­ing when we are work­ing on pos­ses­sion, he is good. Strik­ers are usu­ally not the ones that stand out be­cause their skills are else­where. But Charlie does.

“He is strong, links play well and is good in the air. He is a good old-fash­ioned cen­tre-for­ward and a good fin­isher. I have been re­ally pleased with him and long may it con­tinue.

“Charlie is an unas­sum­ing lad who won’t get ahead of him­self. He is from the north east and his feet are on the ground. A great lad to work with.”

Brad­ford’s gain has very much been Carlisle’s loss with Keith Curle’s men hav­ing slipped from third place on the day Wyke, who net­ted 12 times in 29 league ap­pear­ances for the Cum­bri­ans this term, moved south to seventh today. Since his de­par­ture, Carlisle have net­ted just 11 times in 14 out­ings.

McCall added: “You do your home­work and speak to peo­ple. I did that, so did Greg (Ab­bott, head of re­cruit­ment) and oth­ers.

“But, un­til you work with a player, you never truly know them. And, in that re­spect, he has been a big bonus for us.

“The bot­tom line is we needed goals. The per­for­mances were there, but not nec­es­sar­ily the re­sults.

“It has been a win-win Jan­uary for both us and Sh­effield United, who have now won pro­mo­tion with James.

“As for our­selves, we have a younger James Han­son. The own­ers have said from day one they want to bring younger play­ers in and de­velop them. Charlie falls into that cat­e­gory, as does Alex Jones.

“I say young, but Charlie has played a lot of foot­ball and that is a big help be­cause we lost a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in the win­dow – Nathan Clarke, Filipe Mo­rais, James Han­son and Matthew Kil­gal­lon was in­jured.

“When you play in front of 17,000 and are used to a lot less, it can be dif­fi­cult. But Charlie took to play­ing in front of big crowds re­ally well. Alex Jones is the same, as is Alex Gil­liead.

“We went down the younger route with po­ten­tial, but with good se­nior lads al­ready here, as they are needed.

“You have to be care­ful you have the right bal­ance when at a clubs like this be­cause of the ex­pec­ta­tion that can be there.”

JAMES HAN­SON: His move helped Sh­effield United win the ti­tle and Brad­ford City to re­cruit striker Charlie Wyke from Carlisle.

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