Sheffield United are back in the Premier League to prove heart beats talent

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8:49 AM ETChris Jones, Special to ESPNSHEFFIELD, ENGLAND — Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United and the oldest field for professional football in the world, is far from a palace. It’s not a temple, either. It’s not a cathedral or a theater or another gleaming monument to the modern corporate game. Since ground was first broken here for sport in 1855 — and local hearts for many of the bleak years after — it has remained what it always has been: a factory.Freshly promoted to the Premier League, United had to pour £5 million into their ancient ground to meet the requirements of their posher new peers, accustomed to glass houses: new floodlights, new press room, new TV studios. “We’ve tidied it up a bit,” Chris Wilder, United’s plain-spoken manager, said with a smile before the first top-flight match at Bramall Lane, or anywhere else in Sheffield, since 2007.But the home of the Blades is still sheathed with brick and corrugated steel, protected from the rain by willpower and coats of red paint. It still sits among terraced houses and working-class merchants, Star Electrical Supplies and R. Mortimer & Son, French Polishers. It is still named for a family of metal tool manufacturers.Bramall Lane is still glassless. It reflects nothing but defiance.Crystal Palace, the first of United’s better class of visitors, arrived last Sunday afternoon in their polished black coach. By the stoic standards of South Yorkshire, the welcome was festive. Hawkers sold commemorative scarves and T-shirts that read Pride of Sheffield and Back in the Big Leagues. Banners flapped from the lampposts: We Are Premier League.Even the sun was shining. Manchester City and the other United; Liverpool and Arsenal; Chelsea and Spurs — they are all on their way. The Blades are among the giants. That means Sheffield, the city, can stand with them, too. That was Sunday’s easy, feel-good narrative: Together, club and city have risen and returned, end of story.Of course, Chris Wilder knows better. He was born in Sheffield in 1967 and grew up to play for his boyhood side during challenging times. “I don’t really want to talk about all that stuff,” he said. “Every football club has dark days.” Wilder thrilled in his restoration of better feelings since he became manager in 2016, in his lifting the Blades from League One to the Premier League in only three seasons. The euphoria ended even more quickly. By close to unanimous consent, Wilder’s club isn’t predicted just to be relegated this season. They’re doomed to finish dead last.”Modern-day football isn’t emotional, is it?” Wilder said. “I do believe when standards rise, your standards rise. We’re realists as well. We understand what’s coming and what might happen. How do we overcome that? Of course, it’s a bear pit. It’s brutal.”He paused, as though for the first time he wondered how he could ever account for the coming costs of his success, the balance he will have to find between a reverence for the past and the ruthlessness demanded by the future. He shrugged.”But it’s the place t

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