sport news Sheffield United on the brink of ending 12-year Premier League exile

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Patience was the order of the day at Bramall Lane where the queue trailed out of the ticket office, crept past the players' entrance and along the rear of the Tony Currie Stand and towards the large picture of Alan Woodward.

There was little trace of celebration in the air. Most waited in a nervous hush. Pessimism usually prevails in S2 where they are painfully familiar with football's ability to punish the optimist.

They will proceed with caution but some of those Sheffield United supporters must have been fighting the urge to dance.

Local hero Billy Sharp is nearing promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United

Local hero Billy Sharp is nearing promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United

Victory against already-relegated Ipswich on Saturday will virtually clinch promotion, easing the Blades six points clear of their closest challengers Leeds, who will have two to play and an inferior goal difference.

The Premier League beckons after a 12-year exile. Back to the top with dreams of rekindling the glory days of Currie and Woodward.

Less than three miles away, at the club's training ground on the top of one of Sheffield's seven hills, Chris Wilder was promising the assembled media he was going to be about as entertaining as Geoff Boycott in grim pursuit of another century at Headingley.

'How boring am I going to be?' said Wilder, as he mimed a solid forward defensive. 'Like Boycott, the Western Terrace has emptied.'

Boring does not come naturally to Sheffield United's manager. Born in the city and raised as a Blades fan, he had two spells as a player at the club and was present when they were promoted to the top flight under Dave Bassett in 1992.

'A great period for the club,' said Wilder. 'I played in the back end of that season. Fortunately for me I tore my ankle ligaments, otherwise I would have been at Charlton Athletic. That's how fate happens. I came back here and played in the old first division.'

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder had two spells with the club as a player

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder had two spells with the club as a player

'Harry' Bassett, with seven promotions on his record, has mentored Wilder through the astonishing rise of his coaching career, which started with his mates in Sheffield's Sunday League and has turned full circle back to the steel city via Alfreton, Halifax, Oxford and Northampton.

'I'm tight with Harry,' said the 51-year-old. 'Even though he tried to get rid of me about 33 times. I was like a rubber bullet, I kept bouncing back. I've a huge amount of respect for what he did for the club. He transformed it.'

There are parallels. Just as there are with Neil Warnock who led Sheffield United back to the Premier League in 2006.

No-nonsense managers, connected to their audience, serving up high-energy football and demanding maximum effort from their players.

'Chris has delivered pride, passion, a work ethic and he's played fantastic attacking football,' said Chris Morgan, captain in the team promoted under Warnock.

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