Paul Heckingbottom's Sheffield United have joined Burnley in earning automatic promotion to the Premier League from the Championship, with the Blades priced at 20/1 to secure a top-half finish next term.
Sheffield United have enjoyed an outstanding season in the Championship, occupying the second automatic promotion spot behind runaway leaders Burnley for the majority of the campaign, with a 2-0 victory against West Brom at Bramall Lane confirming their place in the Premier League for next season with three games to spare.
Sheffield United's exploits this year sees the club make a swift return to the top-flight of English football, with the Blades back in the Premier League at the second time of asking after being relegated the season before last.
bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “Paul Heckingbottom dragged the Blades from the lower reaches of the Championship to being agonisingly close to the play-off final last season, and he’s now steered this experienced squad back to the promised land with a few games to spare."
Heckingbottom's charges will be hoping to make a similar impression on the Premier League as the Blades did following their last promotion under Chris Wilder in 2019-20, with Sheffield United flying high in the top half of the table for the majority of the season and finishing in a commendable ninth place.
The Premier League continues to get increasingly demanding with each passing year, however, and Heckingbottom and his side will be well aware of the magnitude of the task on their hands to compete with some of the wealthiest clubs in world football next term.
We examine Sheffield United's prospects in the Premier League next season and their latest betting odds...
The last time Sheffield United were promoted from the Championship was under Chris Wilder in 2019. The Blades squad was comprised of a number of players who had earned the club promotion from League One in 2017 and were widely tipped to finish rock bottom and head straight back down.
A spirited Blades side had other ideas, however, with Sheffield United causing a real stir in the Premier League with a novel way of playing which involved their wide centre-backs - most commonly Chris Basham and Jack O'Connell - overlapping the midfield ahead of them and helping to create overloads in attacking areas.
Launching an unlikely bid for European qualification, the Blades' season eventually subsided following the interruption to the campaign caused by the outbreak of the pandemic, with Wilder's men ending up in ninth place in the table.
Fast forward four years - which featured a demoralising relegation from the Premier League and frustrating return to the Championship - Sheffield United will be out to take the top-flight by storm once again next season having earned promotion in style.
Heckingbottom's current side bears a close resemblance to Wilder's class of 2019-20, not only in terms of personnel but in the way of playing.
Key components of Wilder's team which finished in the top half of the Premier League are still around at Bramall Lane, including influential figures such as captain John Egan, George Baldock and Enda Stevens in defence, Ollie Norwood, John Fleck and Sander Berge in midfield, and Oli McBurnie up front.
45-year-old Heckingbottom has also reverted to Wilder's preferred formation, deploying three central defenders and wing-backs on either side, with only champions Burnley having conceded fewer goals in the Championship this term than the Blades.
Sheffield United have lost just four of 22 home league games at Bramall Lane this season, the second best record in the Championship behind Burnley.
This existing core of players with Premier League experience has been supplemented by some inspirational fresh blood, with adventurous Bosnia and Herzegovina international centre-back Anel Ahmedhodzic and livewire Senegalese forward Iliman Ndiaye both recognised in this season's Championship Team of the Year.
Manchester City loan pair James McAtee and Tommy Doyle have both also made a significant impact at Bramall Lane this term, with Heckingbottom likely to be keen to retain the England Under 21s duo's services for another year upon their return to the Premier League.
Should Heckingbottom and the Sheffield United board manage to acquire a few more astute additions in the summer window, with a transfer embargo sanctioned against the club in January having recently been lifted, the Blades may well be equipped to hold their own in the Premier League next term.
Sheffield United are currently 20/1 to finish in the top half of the Premier League next season, 100/1 to finish in the Top 6, 500/1 to finish in the Top 4, and a huge 2500/1 to upset all the odds and be crowned champions.
Although Sheffield United will back themselves to compete in the Premier League next season, there is no hiding from the fact it will be a daunting step up in class from the Championship.
The top-flight of English football is now littered with riches, with internationals plying their trade at each of the 20 clubs, and Heckingbottom's men will have to raise their game considerably if they are to survive next season.
The current Premier League campaign has seen almost the entire bottom half of clubs flirting with relegation all season, with the same prospect perhaps in store for this Blades side next year in what is an ultra-competitive top flight.
Former Barnsley, Leeds United and Hibernian boss Paul Heckingbottom has won 41 out of 70 matches in the Championship since taking permanent charge of Sheffield United in November 2021.
Sheffield United's last Premier League season in 2020-21 offers the perfect illustration of how unforgiving a division it can be, with the Blades finishing rock bottom on just 23 points - having gone 17 matches without a win at the beginning of the season.
In the last five Premier League seasons, nine of the 15 newly promoted teams have gone straight back down, further reinforcing the size of the task at hand for the Blades next year.
bet365's Steve Freeth said: “As a bookmaker we have to assess Sheffield United's chances next year and at 1/3 for relegation, we’re playing the role of party-poopers before the promotion celebrations have even begun.
“Keeping hold of the impressive Iliman Ndiaye would be a start, and as Bournemouth look likely to prove this season, we don’t always get it right as far as odds-on favourites for relegation are concerned.”
Sheffield United are currently priced at 1/3 to be relegated from the Premier League at the first time of asking, and 9/4 to survive.