As the 2019/20 Premier League season draws ever closer to its conclusion, Sheffield United remain in a great position to qualify for the Europa League.
Had fans been told this a little over a year ago following promotion from the Championship, most would possibly have dismissed it as unrealistic.
The Blades are soon to conclude their first top flight campaign in 12 years. Unlike fellow promoted sides Aston Villa and Norwich City, any fears of relegation were banished long ago.
Instead, European qualification is the target. United are currently seventh in the table, which could be good enough for a place in the Europa League next term, depending on who wins the FA Cup.
The Champions League is now probably beyond them, with fourth-placed Leicester City five points ahead with three games remaining.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are just a point ahead in sixth – a position which would guarantee qualification.
Yet some supporters remain sceptical about whether Europe would be a good thing. The fear is that, like Burnley in 2018/19, playing in the Europa League would have a negative impact on their domestic campaign.
The Clarets didn’t even qualify for the tournament proper after losing in the playoffs. Yet their European exertion seemed to affect their league form. By Boxing Day they were in the relegation zone, having lost 13 of their 19 matches.
Result improved in the second half of the season and they avoided the drop. But the fear is something similar could happen to Chris Wilder’s side.
What Europa League qualification would mean to Sheffield United
Not only would qualifying for Europe cap off a fantastic year for the club, it would also see them tread new ground. Their only European involvement to date saw them feature in the Anglo-Italian Cup in the 1990s.
That competition was for second tier teams from England and Italy and was very different in terms of quality to the modern day Europa League.
Yet aside from the romance and adventure of playing in Europe, it would also be fantastic from a financial point of view.
The i reports that qualifying for the tournament is potentially worth up to £40m. This could go some way towards bolstering a squad ready to compete on multiple fronts.
Not to mention the fact that the Blades could attract a higher calibre of player if European football is on offer.
Travelling across the continent on Thursday nights would take its toll in many ways. But it would also greatly boost the history and bank balance at Bramall Lane.
From League One to the Europa League in four years? Bring it on.