ALL eyes will be on Sheffield United when the 2011/12 season gets under way next month.
The Blades are one of the heavyweight sides in League One, and boss Danny Wilson recognises the club will have to cope with teams raising their games against them.
United head to Boundary Park on the opening day of the campaign to take on Oldham Athletic before travelling to Hartlepool United in the first round of the Carling Cup. To cap off a hectic 10 days, Wilson’s side then entertain Brentford and Walsall at Bramall Lane.
It is a far cry from last term when they were locking horns with clubs of the size and stature of Middlesbrough, Leeds and Nottingham Forest.
With senior players needing to be offloaded to reduce the size of the wage bill, it promises to be one of the sternest tests of Wilson’s managerial credentials.
It was just over 12 months ago the 51-year-old, who beat off competition from more than 50 candidates to land the United post, led Swindon Town to the play-off final.
He acknowledges United will be one of the biggest scalps in the division and says it is vital the players thrive on the pressure of being one of the favourites to go up.
Wilson has told his squad, who began pre-season training last Thursday, not to dwell on last season’s relegation and urged them to instead focus on making sure they play to the best of their capabilities on a consistent basis.
“It is a big test of character for us this year because we will be under massive scrutiny from everybody,” Wilson said.
“We have got to handle the pressure and expectation levels. That is the mentality that good players have.
“I am not putting us into the category of Manchester United but they have to deal with that week in week out. Every game they play is a cup final for the opposition.
“You have to have a certain mentality to overcome that. The expectations here are very high so I think we have to
make sure that we have the right approach and mental strength to combat that.
“The boys will still be hurting from last year as much as anybody. We have to channel that disappointment and look to get a positive reaction from them.”
United begin their pre-season friendlies with a trip to local rivals Sheffield FC on Saturday, kick-off 3pm. In a week’s time, Wilson’s men head to Worksop Town, kick-off 7.30pm before two clashes in the space of three days at Sliema Wanderers and Hibernians on Monday, July 18, and Wednesday, July 20, respectively.