IT was hardly the footballing equivalent of the Great Trek or worthy of a John Steinbeck novel but Danny Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, took as much satisfaction from the number of uninvolved players who made their own way to the recent Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield Town as he did the result.
And, as Bramall Lane enters arguably the most emotive week of its season so far, Wilson hopes a similar show of solidarity will give his team a psychological edge during Sunday’s Steel City showdown at Hillsborough.
The wealth of attacking talent now at United’s disposal guarantees some high-profile omissions when Wilson names his squad for the visit to Sheffield Wednesday.
However, those who fail to make the final cut will still be encouraged to play an active role in ensuring their colleagues are properly prepared for the most combustible fixture on the League One calendar.
Wilson, whose team followed up their success at the Galpharm Stadium by winning last Saturday’s meeting with Preston North End, said: “One of the most pleasing things I’ve seen lately was the number of players who travelled to our previous away game under their own steam.
“They weren’t involved but they turned up to support the rest of the lads and that speaks volumes about what a tight-knit bunch they are.”
One of those players on the periphery of Wilson’s squad who opted to spend his night off at Huddersfield was former Scotland and Glasgow Rangers defender David Weir. The 41-year-old, a veteran of 43 Old Firm, Merseyside and Edinburgh derbies, has been training at Shirecliffe since leaving Ibrox.
Wilson has refused to rule out the possibility of “calling upon David’s services” at some stage between now and the end of the campaign and described Weir as “relaxed” about the fact a permanent contract with United has not yet been forthcoming.
“He’s got no problem with the situa-
tion whatsoever,” said Wilson. “He enjoys being here and we enjoy having him around.
David has achieved means you can’t help but be inspired by him. He’s got so much knowledge and experience to pass on and he’s fitted in really, really well with the rest of the lads.”
The expertise Weir has acquired during two decades in the professional game is likely to be in much demand as United look to extend or, at the very least, maintain the five-point advantage they enjoy over Gary Megson’s side. But the likes of Neill Collins - who six years ago anchored their back four at Hillsborough only hours after completing a loan move to Bramall Lane while still with Sunderland - Nick Montgomery, James Beattie, Richard Cresswell and captain Michael Doyle will also assume influential roles in the dressing room beforehand.
A re-arranged fixture against Scunthorpe follows hot on the heels of their clash with Wednesday, so this weekend’s match is not the only key match looming large on United’s calendar.
“We have to try and be as consistent as possible,” said Wilson. “If you look at the rankings, all the teams around us have stayed exceptionally consistent as well.”
Meanwhile, new dates have also been confirmed for United’s postponed games against Colchester and Chesterfield. Wilson’s men now visit Essex on Tuesday March 13 before entertaining John Sheridan’s JP Trophy finalists on Wednesday March 28. Both games kick off at 7.45pm.