Tony Cascarino says Sheffield United qualifying for the Europa League next season is the “last thing” they need.
It seems bizarre to even be discussing it, but European qualification is looking like an increasingly realistic prospect for the Blades.
Their 2-1 win over Bournemouth at the weekend moved them up to fifth in the Premier League table. They are only two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and the Champions League places.
Fifth position is a Europa League spot. While the other two go to the FA Cup and Carabao Cup winners, if they have already qualified for Europe they then go to sixth and seventh. Often this is the case.
There is currently four points between the Blades and Manchester United in eighth. Yet while the possibility is becoming more and more likely, Cascarino thinks qualifying for the Europa League would be bad for the club.
“If I followed United I would be dreading a run in Europe next season – it would be a step too far,” the former Republic of Ireland international wrote in his Times column.
“Wilder has performed miracles in his three and a half seasons at the club, taking them from the depths of League One in August 2016 to their present dizzying heights.
“But he has done it by being realistic about the resources at his disposal and what he wants out of them. A Europa League campaign next season is the last thing he needs.”
Would the Europa League be bad for Sheffield United?
Cascarino’s opinion is based on something. Of the last 28 occasions an English side has qualified for the Europa League, only 10 times have they finished higher in the table the following season.
In 2017/18 Burnley surprised everyone by finishing seventh and qualifying for the competition. Next campaign they ended up 15th, despite not even reaching the group stage.
That said, last term Wolverhampton Wanderers qualified and are now through to the last 32 – also in their first year after promotion. Yet they are currently ninth in the table and in a good position to emulate last season’s finish of seventh.
Unlike Cascarino, Pat Nevin thinks the Blades could cope. Nevin has reservations, but told BBC Radio 5 Live:
“It’s going to be a big problem next season. It’s not easy to do that – you really need two squads to do it.
“Given the way they’ve added in January though, if they find themselves in Europe next season and add three or four more then that will probably be enough.”
There is logic in what Cascarino says and some fans may agree with him. But would supporters really prefer to pass up on a European adventure?
The closest the club has experienced so far in their history is a campaign in the mostly forgotten Anglo-Italian Cup in the 1990s. It was a tournament for second tier sides from England and Italy.
Playing in the Europa League (or even the Champions League!) would be new ground for the club. And with Chris Wilder as manager, everything seems possible.