INJURED defender Andy Taylor believes experience will be key as his Sheffield United team-mates prepare for their crucial meeting with Sheffield Wednesday this weekend.
United go into the game in second place after Saturday’s 2-1 win at home to Preston, five points ahead of Wednesday – giving extra significance to a derby billed as one of the most eagerly anticipated in recent memory.
Left-back Taylor will miss the game as he continues his rehabilitation following a knee ligament injury he sustained on Boxing Day in 2010, but was a member of the last United team to register a Steel City derby victory a year earlier.
Taylor has experienced the pressure-cooker situation of a derby game at Hillsborough as have Steve Simonsen, Nick Montgomery, Lee Williamson, Stephen Quinn and Richard Cresswell.
Of Gary Megson’s current crop of players, only the mercurial Jermaine Johnson and defender Mark Beevers, who has made just one league appearance for The Owls all season, have played against United on their own turf.
And, with a sell-out attendance of around 38,000 expected, it is that experience of stepping out in front of a hostile, partisan crowd that could prove to be the difference between the two rival teams.
“These games are like no other game I’ve ever played in my career,” Taylor, who admitted he was “incredibly frustrated” to miss out on the chance of making his third derby appearance against Wednesday, told The Star.
“There’s a really hostile atmosphere that, as a player, you have to be able to deal with. So having experience of playing in big games like this is very important, as there’s a different kind of pressure when you’re in front of your own fans. We have several players who have played at Hillsborough before so know what it is all about.”
Taylor added: “Everyone here knows how much this game means to the fans, and to the city.
“The whole city is buzzing leading up to the game, and you have to be able to deal with that.
“It is worth much more than just the three points at stake.”