BARCELONA might be more than just a club. But the Steel City derby, South Yorkshire’s very own El Classic, is more than just a game.
That is Danny Wilson’s assessment of meetings between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday ahead of tomorrow’s showdown at Hillsborough where, given the current state of play in the League One table, there are more than simply local bragging rights at stake.
“This isn’t just any other match,” he said. “There’s nothing to be gained by denying it, and it’s arguably even more important now.
“To be involved in something of this intensity is just fantastic. We’re very much up for it. We’re excited and confident, as we always are.
“But that shouldn’t be taken as a sign of complacency because we know just how tough this is going to be.”
Wilson’s emotive appraisal resonates even more deeply given that he is not a man usually disposed to public displays of emotion. Indeed, he refused to discuss his previous associations with Wednesday in any great detail when the subject was raised at United’s pre-match media briefing earlier this week.
“People shouldn’t be in any doubt about where my loyalties are,” he said before repeating a previous claim that managing United is “the greatest challenge of my career”.
“I say that it because of the potential,” Wilson continued. “Of knowing what this club can be.
“The infrastructure is Premiership class. Without a shadow of a doubt. We’ve just got to try and get it right on the pitch.”
Wilson’s understated approach - “I know it’s boring but we are just taking things one step at a time” - has been cited as a driving force behind United’s climb to second in the League One table. Wednesday are third, prompting Wilson to dismiss claims that a run of three straight league defeats means Gary Megson’s side can forget their hopes of automatic promotion should the visitors prevail.
“There isn’t a cigarette paper between us,” Wilson said. “But I’d rather look above than behind.
“I’ve always maintained that we can catch (leaders) Charlton. We might not, but it’s possible, even if it takes six, seven or eight games.”
“The result of the derby isn’t going to decide anything,” Wilson added. “There are too many points to play for whatever happens.
“But we are going in expecting three points and, again, that’s not taking anything for granted. It’s the approach we take into every game.”
Wilson, who won the Rumbelows Cup with Wednesday as a player before spending 20 months in charge of United’s arch-rivals earlier in his career, proved an unpopular appointment when he was first unveiled at Bramall Lane in May.
But, with a win percentage of 61 per cent, the former LMA Manager of the Year has won the respect of his critics by delivering both results and eye-catching football. “That’s down to the players and we’ve also been able to keep a pretty settled side,” he said. “Keeping the squad intact during the transfer window was a real bonus and thanks go to the board for that.”
Rather than shy away from the hullaballoo surrounding tomorrow’s contest, Wilson has spent the past week embracing every aspect of a typically eventful build-up.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “How can you not enjoy being part of this occasion?”