DANNY Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, has warned his players that complacency will deal a fatal blow to their Carling Cup hopes.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s first round tie at Hartlepool, Wilson described Saturday’s performance against Oldham as “a blueprint” for the rest of the season as the South Yorkshire club attempts to restore its reputation following relegation last term.
Dismissing suggestions the knockout competitions could prove a distraction as United look to claw themselves out of League One at the first attempt, the former Northern Ireland international insisted there must be no repeat of the insipid display which saw the visitors bow out of the tournament at Victoria Park 12 months ago.
“I don’t know if any of the lads who are still here feel as if they’ve got a point to prove,” he said. “But what that result will have done is remind them of what is required.
“They’ve had an experience of what to expect up there and I’m sure they’ve taken it on board.
“Every game is a massive game for teams like Hartlepool and it’s exactly the same for us.
“I watched them a lot last season and we’ve seen them during pre-season too.
“The one thing you always know you are going to get from them is a group of organised and committed players.
“They have to be because, with all due respect, their budget isn’t the biggest but they make the most of what they’ve got.
“The fans up there aren’t the biggest in terms of number but they are very vocal and make their presence felt.
“And I know only too well what a tough place it is to go and get a result.
“They’re always very strong at home.”
Wilson, who paid tribute to “the excellent job” Mick Wadsworth has performed since taking charge of United’s opponents, led Hartlepool to promotion in 2007.
“I’ve got a lot of happy memories there and although the personnel of the club has changed I know the ethos hasn’t.”
But, having briefed his squad on the physical challenge they can expect to face over the coming in English football’s third tier, there was not even the merest whiff of sentiment when he previewed the contest after the 2-0 success at Boundary Park.
“We’ve been on to the players ever since we can back in for training,” Wilson, who took charge in May, revealed. “At them all the time.
“One of the things which really pleased me (at Oldham) was the attitude they showed.
“There’s always a danger that, dropping down a level, they might not be entirely switched on but they were.
“They acquitted themselves ever so well and that’s the blueprint, the template if you like, for the rest of the campaign.
“We worked hard to start with and stood up to Oldham pressing us hard.
“If we’d have gone up there, away from home, and tried to knock it around from the off then we’d have got mullered.
“No doubt about it.
“But we didn’t and we weren’t.”
Hartlepool’s more considered approach could enable United to showcase the creative side of their character as Wilson and his assistant Frank Barlow press ahead with their bid to transform Bramall Lane’s ‘route one’ image.
But Chris Porter (dead leg) and Ryan Flynn (hamstring) are doubts.
“There could be one or two changes,” said Wilson. “But, if there are, it’s because we’ll be picking a team to win.”
HARTLEPOOL UNITED (Possible): Flinders, Austin, Collins, Horwood, Hartley, Liddle, Monkhouse, Sweeney, Solano, Nish, Boyd.
SHEFFIELD UNITED (Possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Jean-Francois, Flynn, Montgomery, Williamson, Quinn, Bogdanovic, Cresswell.
Geoff Eltringham: Issued two yellow cards in Shrewsbury’s draw with Plymouth on Saturday. Hailing from Tyne and Wear, he will have a shorter journey tonight. Issued 13 red cards in 30 games last term, including five in his first eight outings. First time Eltringham has overseen a fixture involving Hartlepool or United since becoming a referee in 2008.
Tale Of The Tape
Eltringham’s apparent willingness to reach for a red card will not worry Hartlepool who had only two players sent off last season. But for United, who saw 12 dismissed , must stay on the right side of the law. United opened their League One campaign with a 2-0 win at Oldham. Mick Wadsworth’s side, meanwhile, were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw with MK Dons after conceding an injury time equaliser.