ROB Kozluk last night warned his Sheffield United teammates that Barnsley will be “desperate” to send them down.
But the full-back, who made over 80 appearances for tomorrow’s visitors before returning to Bramall Lane in July, issued a defiant defence of the Steel City club’s credentials despite their perilous predicament towards the bottom of the Championship table.
Barnsley will condemn United to relegation if they secure at least a draw in what is expected to be a highly-charged contest.
“As far as I’m concerned there is no way a Barnsley team should ever be coming to this ground and winning,” Kozluk told The Star. “End of. It shouldn’t happen.
“But they’ll be coming here absolutely desperate to do exactly that. They’ll love the idea of being the ones who knock Sheffield United out of the division and that’s exactly why they are bringing so many fans. Because they want to be there if it happens.
“We’ve got to be ready to cope with that, make sure we do what we’ve got to do and then hope results elsewhere go our way.
“But I stand by what I’ve said. There’s no way, in my opinion, that Sheffield United should be losing to Barnsley at home.”
Even if United fulfil their side of the bargain, they must hope that fellow strugglers Doncaster Rovers or Crystal Palace lose to stand any chance of overhauling the six-point gap which separates them from safety.
Never the most comfortable of neighbours, United’s and Barnsley’s relations have become particularly strained over the past 24 months with Daniel Bogdanovic’s decision to quit Oakwell the latest notable episode in this bitter sporting soap opera.
However, the Malta international is unlikely to feature in United’s starting 11 after missing Monday’s win at Reading with an ankle problem.
“Sheffield United in League One is not something that anyone here wants to see,” said Kozluk. “I’m delighted to see Barnsley going well in the Championship.
“But, as far as I’m concerned, Sheffield United should be a Premiership club. No doubt about it.
“The fact is, though, we are in this position and we’ve got to believe we can get out of it.
“We know it’s going to be tough. We’re not daft. But it’s not impossible either.”
Kozluk admitted he is “disgusted” with his own contribution this season - “Of course I would’ve liked to have played more. But I haven’t and I’ve got to try and force the manager’s hand” - but would not be adverse to extending a contract which expires following next month’s trip to Swansea.
“I’m not from here but Sheffield United is a huge part of my life. All of my kids have been born while I’ve been a Sheffield United player and, whatever happens, the place and role this club has had in my career isn’t going to change.”
Citing individual errors as a huge factor behind United’s position in the table - they climbed to 22nd following their 3-2 triumph at the Madejski Stadium - Kozluk insisted they must not allow emotions to get the better of them against opponents who are 18th.
“We’ve got to attack the game but it would be foolish to go gung-ho,” he said.
“That’s not the answer because, first and foremost, we’ve got to win the game.
“It’s all about striking the right balance. We know what we’ve got to do.
“The mood in the camp is good. Everyone is very focused.
“You can’t let things get on top of you but, at the same time, there’s a job to be done and we have to try and ensure we are as equipped to do it as we possibly can.
“We’ve got to stay tight at the back and take chances when they come.”