With a record number of goals conceded nearly a third of a way through the 2023/24 season, and with just a single win to their name, Sheffield United are on course to become one of the worst sides to ever inhabit the English top-flight.
Eleven games in, a team almost exclusively populated by Championship-standard players have been breached every 33 minutes, responding with a meagre 0.8 goals per 90.
All season long they’ve been in front for a mere 52 minutes while the sheer volume of shots they’ve faced is astonishing. An average of 19.3 per game has left keeper Wes Foderingham over-worked and then some.
All told, it’s not exactly looking good for Paul Heckingbottom’s strugglers. Indeed, the sports betting and basic common sense are both in full agreement that the Blades are doomed to drop just five months after securing promotion.
Worse yet – or more accurately it will be worse in hindsight, once their pain at enduring relegation passes – the Yorkshire club are in grave danger of finding themselves on a decidedly dishonourable honours roll should their plight continue, forever shaming this famous institution that is lucky enough to be blessed with a terrific fan-base.
The most goals ever conceded in a Premier League season was 100, by Swindon Town in 1993/94. At their current rate, the Blades are set to ship in 104.
The worst goal difference accumulated by a top-flight collective was -69, embarrassingly accrued by Derby County in 2007/08. The Rams incidentally also picked up the fewest ever number of points (11) as they floundered from August through to May.
At least on their present trajectory, United will surpass eleven, just. But the Premier League’s all-time worst goal difference is due to be smashed.
Lastly, after conceding 2.8 goals per 90 from their away fixtures to date, the Blades are going to get precariously close to Wigan’s woeful tally of 55 in 2009/10 for most goals conceded on the road.
Broadening our scope, what is beyond question is that should Sheffield United carry on losing on an almost weekly basis, they will eventually join the discredited ranks of Derby, Sunderland in 2005/06 and themselves in 2020/21 in being widely branded as the Premier League’s worst ever fare.
Three years ago, after ironically impressing in their previous campaign, the Blades capitulated from the off, finding themselves out-classed each and every weekend, and as the defeats racked up they inevitably and quickly hit rock-bottom.
The similarities between then and now are sadly uncanny.
One of the most popular football cliches is that fortunes can improve with a change in personnel in the dug-out, and it is wholly unsurprising that Heckingbottom is among the favourites to be the next Premier League manager to leave his position.
Yet, whoever comes in will still have to go with a persistently porous defence. They’ll still inherit a forward line that has notched only three goals between them by early November.
Regrettably for the Blades, miracle workers are few and far between these days.
*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*