John Lundstram interview: Underdogs Sheffield United's quality is not a surprise anymore, says Blades midfielder

  • Every year, the Premier League sees the birth of a genuine underdog, a team that defies all expectations, striking fear into the hearts of the best of the best with their courageous, uncompromising football

  • A veritable legend in Fantasy Premier League circles, Lundstram's uncanny ability to score crucial goals has been a driving force in Sheffield's amazing run, most recently scoring a match-winning goal in the 84th minute against Bournemouth on Sunday

  • Currently in fifth place, above the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Arsenal, it's fair to say that newly-promoted Sheffield have been punching above their weight, and instead of a battle against relegation, they find themselves challenging for a Champions League spot

Every year, the Premier League sees the birth of a genuine underdog, a team that defies all expectations, striking fear into the hearts of the best of the best with their courageous, uncompromising football. You cannot help but love them, you cannot help but watch in awe as they go about their job with systematic efficiency, grinding out result after result with complete disregard for odds and chances. This year, the team to take up that mantle has been Sheffield United, and one of the players who has helped them do so is John Lundstram.

A veritable legend in Fantasy Premier League circles, Lundstram's uncanny ability to score crucial goals has been a driving force in Sheffield's amazing run, most recently scoring a match-winning goal in the 84th minute against Bournemouth on Sunday. With four goals and two assists to his name, the midfielder has been a vital component of his team's attack this season, but he insisted that there isn't much pressure on him to perform, telling Firstpost in an email interview that "I think I just put more pressure on myself more than anything else, I set my own goals and targets and I just put pressure on myself to hit those targets."

While Sheffield have not been the most prolific scorers, there have been some notable results in their run, including a 1-0 win over Arsenal and draws against Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. For Lundstram, his favourite was the 3-0 win against Burnley. "There have been a lot of memorable moments this year, but probably the two goals and the win against Burnley stands out for me. The game at Bramall Lane against Aston Villa in December also stood out for me."

Currently in fifth place, above the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Arsenal, it's fair to say that newly-promoted Sheffield have been punching above their weight, and instead of a battle to avoid relegation, they find themselves challenging for a Champions League spot. Lundstram, however, stressed on a need for cautious optimism from fans and players alike. "I think at the moment, we’re working towards that forty-point mark and then we can move on from there. Our objective is just to finish as high as possible in the Premier League, but we just need to stay grounded."

One of the primary factors that has led to Sheffield's impressive showing has been their water-tight defence, which has let in just 24 goals in 26 matches, second only to runaway leaders Liverpool. Their trio of centre-backs, Chris Basham, John Egan and Jack O'Connell, has been miserly, and with the industrious full-back pairing of Enda Stevens and George Baldock helping out, the best of teams have failed to find a breakthrough when up against the red and white striped wall of Sheffield United. That 3-5-2 system, which was used by manager Chris Wilder to secure promotion from the Championship last season, has been widely appreciated for the solidity it provides to the team.

"I think we surprised a lot of people coming into the league and I think teams have started to take notice of what we are doing. I don’t think it’s a surprise anymore, especially when you see teams setting up against us and changing to a back five to try to match us up," said Lundstram of the system, adding, "I think it (defence) has come over a couple of seasons. Last year, in the Championship, the lads got the most clean sheets and I think we’ve just carried on from there, using the same back five too. So, it just carries on and we’ve been working on it a bit more this season in the Premier League."

Manager Wilder's system has worked like a charm in the Premier League, and the Englishman has received praise for his tactical nous, which was also the architect of Lundstram's transformation from a defender to a free-flowing midfielder. "Chris Wilder has been brilliant for us. His intensity every day in training to work and his intensity in the games (means) you can never take your foot off the gas. It’s suited me and it has given me the license to get forward and up and down the pitch."

Lundstram's excellent performances have seen him become a more crucial aspect of the Sheffield side this season, with 25 appearances to his name. While his exploits over the past ten months have made him somewhat of a household name amongst viewers of the Premier League, things could have turned out quite differently for the Liverpudlian. His initial years in the sport were not the easiest — he was, after all, sent out on loan six times whilst a part of the Everton academy set-up. But by his own accord, the young Englishman wouldn't change a thing. "I’ve had this question before, but I wouldn’t change the journey that I’ve had. I’ve had had a lot of ups and downs, like everyone has, but the people that I’ve met on the way have made me the person and player that I want to be. I’ve finally got to where I want to be."

The Premier League is broadcast by the Star Sports Network in India, and online streaming is available on hotstar.com. 

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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2020 21:41:31 IST