They would have preferred not to drop-out of the EFL Cup. Especially when the team which ended Sheffield United’s hopes at the first round stage currently resides in League Two.
But, as the competition resumes after a fortnight’s break, that defeat by Crewe Alexandra could prove a blessing in disguise for Chris Wilder and his coaching staff at Bramall Lane.
Time on the training ground is important. Especially when you are trying to implement a new set of tactics, drills and ideas.
“I think, if you look at the jobs I’ve done and where those clubs were when I left, they’ve always improved,” Wilder said. “You can’t just chuck a load of things up in the air and then expect them to all fall down in the right places straight away. Well, sometimes it might happen but, more often than not, it football doesn’t work like that. I wasn’t silly enough to think we’d be the finished article in August but we’ve still got a lot of work to do of course.”
Although Wilder was annoyed by the result against Steve Davis’ side - Crewe’s reward for beating United was a visit to Blackburn Rovers last night - the scoreline at least cleared the South Yorkshire club’s schedule ahead of this weekend’s meeting with Oxford. United then host Leicester City in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday before enjoying three more blank midweeks.
Despite accepting results have been disappointing since his appointment three months ago - “We won’t hide away from anything” - there is a school of thought within Wilder’s inner circle that it is over this period when his methods will begin to take effect.
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“Yes, four games into the competition we aren’t where we want to be,” Wilder, who remains in constant dialogue with United’s owners, said. “They won’t be happy with results just like me. But they also know, like me, where we were as a football club when I came in. They understand the demands and expectations. They also understand that, when I came in, there needed to be a change. A change in attitude, culture and lots of other things. That’s the job I’ve got to do.”
Wilder, who led Oxford back into the Football League during a six year spell at The Kassam Stadium, also achieved promotion with Northampton Town last term. There, amid a series of financial issues, the Sixfields based club were 16th in the League Two table after six outings. They finished the season as champions, 13 points clear of Oxford, having lost only two of their remaining 37 games in all competitions.
With United waiting to learn if Millwall have accepted their offer for centre-half Byron Webster, Wilder is pressing ahead with his overhaul of the first team squad he inherited from Nigel Adkins. Goalkeeper Simon Moore arrived from Cardiff City in a deal potentially worth just shy of £500,000 last week while another midfielder features on Wilder’s wanted list. Likewise a performance devoid of the individual errors which have been so costly so far this term.
“I wasn’t happy with the result (at Millwall),” he said. “There were parts of the game I was happy with though and periods of the game. The lads showed a real spirit to get back in and dominated the first-half without putting them to bed. Then, they showed a reaction which you would expect but we were a minute away from getting what would have been a fair result I think.”