SUFC were elected to the newly formed Football League Division 2 in 1892 and finished as runners-up in that first season. There was no automatic promotion in those days and the top three teams in the 2nd division played the bottom three of the 1st division in what were known as Test matches or promotion play-offs. United met Accrington and beat them 1-0 to become (along with Darwen) the first team in the World to be promoted. It was during this 1892/93 season that The Blades set a Football League record that still stands to this day. On the 10th December 1892 United played away at Burslem Port Vale and won 10-0. This is still the biggest away victory in Football League history and the only instance to date of an away team getting into double goalscoring figures.
A commemorative cover was produced in 1972 to mark the 80th anniversary of Sheffield United's election to the Football League.
The Blades have for the majority of their history played in the top two divisions of English football and they have been English Champions once, way back in 1898. The late nineteen seventies and early eighties saw the club plummet through the divisions to Division Four. Relegated from the top flight in 1976 and then into division three for the first time in their history in 1979 the unthinkable happened when the Blades found themselves in division four for the 81/82 season. One season was spent in the basement division with United finishing as champions. The first home game back in Division Three was against Preston North End and a cover was produced to mark the occasion. The cover on the right is autographed by Keith Edwards, one of the goalscorers from the game and holder of a golden boot for being the league's top scorer the previous season.
United started to recover and slowly climb the leagues. Two succesive promotions in 1988/89 and 1989/80 saw the club finally make it back into the top flight of English football. The first game back in the top division was at home to the reigning champions Liverpool. United gave a good account of themselves and took a 1-0 lead but the loss of goalkeeper Simon Tracey to injury changed the game and Liverpool ran out 3-1 victors. The two covers below are autographed by Simon Tracey and John Pemberton who replaced him in goal.
Controversy at times seems to be United's constant partner and in 1999 the club, along with Arsenal were involved in an FA Cup 5th round tie that made the headlines. Arsenal won the match 2-1 with a goal that broke an unwritten rule. The Arsenal manager offered that the match be replayed and in the second game the Gunners again ran out 2-1 winners.
The Blades have won the FA Cup four times during their history in 1899, 1902, 1915 and 1925 and have been runners-up twice in 1901 and 1936. Within the last twenty years the club have reached the semi-finals on three occasions but unfortunately fell short and lost each time. The FA Cup semi-final of 1993 was the first All-Sheffield FA Cup semi-final and was orginally due to be played at Elland Road in Leeds. However the FA relented to public pressure and switched the game to Wembley. Wednesday won the game 2-1. United again reached the semi-finals in 1998 and 2003. The 1998 semi-final was played at Old Trafford with the Blades losing 1-0 to Newcastle. The same venue and scoreline in 2003, this time the opponents were Arsenal.
A year before the 1998 FA Cup semi-final United had played at Wembley for only the second time since 1936. This was the Division One play-off final against Crystal Palace. The Eagles won 1-0 with a last minute goal to gain promotion to the Premiership. The Blades were again in the play-off final in 2003, this was played at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Wolves running out 3-0 winners. United also reached the League Cup semi-final in 2003, losing out to Liverpool over two legs 3-2 on aggregate. Another play-off final appearance in 2009, this time at the new Wembley saw United lose 1-0 to Burnley. FA Cup semi-finals, play-off finals, are you detecting a pattern here?
So that concludes this short philatelic journey through the history of Sheffield United. For further reading click this link. More about Sheffield United.