Sheffield United’s players discovered to their cost on Tuesday evening that brutal honesty will be a feature of Chris Wilder’s regime.
No spin, bluff or public relations exercises. Just a commitment to telling it like it is. Whatever the result.
So, when United’s new manager demanded “a response” following Tuesday’s defeat by FC Halifax, his squad would be well advised to listen. Or entrance to this evening’s post-match media conference at Grimsby could be the hottest ticket in town.
“We’re taking a big crowd and I’m sure and I expect we’ll get one,” Wilder, speaking ahead of today’s friendly at Blundell Park, predicted. “Grimsby will be a tough test again.
“I think the players have now grasped what I’m about and what we’re about as staff. If you don’t grasp it then you’ll fall by the wayside. That’s what will happen. We’ve brought in players and even some of those need to do better than they did the other night.”
Wilder’s comments after watching United beaten 2-0 at The Shay raised eyebrows in some quarters. Especially given the more relaxed approach many of his recent predecessors, Nigel Adkins included, have adopted during pre-season campaigns. But Wilder is adamant that demanding his squad adheres to the highest possible standards, no matter what the occasion, makes perfect sense. Because, he explained before travelling to north Lincolnshire, United will be the most prized scalp in League One next term.
“When you play for this shirt, you are there to be shot at. Whether it’s pre-season or not, whether it’s a league game or not, that’s what you get. I’ve said to some ‘you’ve had that feeling before.’ I don’t mind getting beat but you have to get beat the right way if you know what I mean. I’m not going to stand here and say I enjoyed the other night and I enjoyed watching the team play because I didn’t. There has to be improvements and there will be improvements. You can be sure of that.”
Grimsby, who returned to the Football League following a six year absence after winning the National League play-off final in May, are expected to provide United’s toughest test of the summer so far. Ben Davies, previously of Bramall Lane, will for the hosts having parted company with Portsmouth. Former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sean McAllister could also feature.
Wilder said: “Everytime you pull on this shirt, you get judged. Whether it’s by me, the staff or the supporters, that’s the way it is. We got beat, regardless of friendlies, getting fit and all of that. Everybody has a set-back. It’s the first time I’ve had to give some a lift and raise my voices to them. We’ve complemented them in the past quite rightly so because they’ve deserved it with their attitude and approach.”
“This game isn’t all about passing it backwards and square,” he added “There’s a lot more to the game than that, you have to compete. It’s good to see players under pressure, under stress and duress. Some players kept their standards and others dropped them last time.”