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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Blades aim high after promotion
By Chris Bevan

Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe
We are not going to rest on our laurels, this is the start of a new challenge
Kevin McCabe
Sheffield United chairman Kevin McCabe is determined to establish the club as a force in the Premiership following their return after 12 seasons away.

McCabe told BBC Sport: "What we want is to be here for a long period, unlike in the past when we have not made an impact in the top-half of the table.

"Our four to five year plan is to be challenging for European places.

"The way to achieve that is finding new investment and recruiting experienced players to blend into our squad."

It is 12 years since the Blades were last in the top-flight, when a last-minute defeat at Chelsea on the last day of the season condemned them to the drop.

Their long wait to return is finally over but for McCabe the hard work starts now, on and off the pitch.

He added: "As someone who was born and bred at Bramall Lane and is a lifelong Sheffield United fan it means a great deal to be back.

"We will celebrate this success but at the same time we are not going to lie idle because we are actually at the start of a new challenge.

"We want to be a top-flight team for a long, long time and much of our plan to achieve that has already been put in place.

UNITED'S CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
1994/95: 8th
1995/96: 9th
1996/97: 5th (lost play-offs)
1997/98: 6th (lost play-offs)
1998/99: 8th
1999/00: 16th
2000/01: 10th
2001/02: 13th
2002/03: 3rd (lost play-offs)
2003/04: 8th
2004/05: 8th
2005/06: 2nd (promoted)

"Our footballing infastructure has improved dramatically over the last four or five years. Our approach has been to get talented youngsters to come to us and then to coach them with the best possible professional methods.

"Hopefully then they will become first-team players for us in the Premiership.

"The next step is building an experienced squad that can recognise the level they need to play to and win sufficient games to be in the top-half of the table.

"That is easier said than done but is what we have planned for and you have to plan because it just doesn't happen by chance.

"High on our agenda will be recruiting experienced players that are probably at a different level than what we have had in the Championship.

"But first and foremost we will be looking for new investment because we are very conscious of the demise of so many clubs who have just borrowed money. That is the road to ruin unless you are very lucky."

There has been much speculation about the future of manager Neil Warnock, who was approached by Portsmouth about taking charge at Fratton Park in December 2005.

It has been reported that his contract is up in the summer but McCabe explained that is not the case - and that Warnock will remain in charge.

We have to remember that we are no longer a club that got promoted and expected to be at the bottom of the table. We are a club aiming for the top half
Kevin McCabe

"His contract has until the end of next season to run because it has an option in it so the club is able to extend it," he explained.

"It is not an immediate worry for us at all. Like last season, at the end of this campaign we will review the past 12 months with the management and then plan for the coming season.

"We will be sitting down soon to ensure we are ready for the Premiership."

The Blades reached the Championship play-offs three times in their previous attempts to return to the holy grail of the Premiership, but missed out on promotion each time.

McCabe felt the pain of each of those disappointments, which is why he wants the good times to continue.

He said: "It has been frustrating. Some of the hardest speeches I have had to make have been after those glorious failures to try to re-motivate people who are depressed because of just missing out.

"So it was about time we had that bit of luck that brings you promotion - we deserve it.

"We have worked so hard in modernising United from the old-fashioned club it was.

"Football has changed a lot since we were last promoted to the top-flight 16 years ago but so have we.

"Now we have to remember that we are no longer a club that got promoted and expected to be at the bottom of the table. We are a club aiming for the top half.

"We won't go crazy with our expectations because we recognise the strength and quality of other clubs but we plan to stay there.

"Since I have supported United, going back to the 1950s, whenever we have been in the top division we have never been in the very top echelons and never been up there for many years.

"We once spent 41 consecutive years in the top-flight. What we are saying now is why can't we achieve that sort of record again?

"The truth is we have still got to progress. We cannot rest on our laurels - we need to find new investment to put into the football side of things.

"If we sit back and are just the old Sheffield United then we will not succeed."


SEE ALSO
Yesterday's Blades
15 Apr 06 |  Sheff Utd



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