If Sheffield United get beaten, the narrative might change.
But, for the time being at least, Chris Wilder is making no attempt to downplay the significance of Saturday’s visit to Scunthorpe.
“We’ve got a big week ahead of us,” the Sheffield United manager said. “They are all big games but these are big games coming up. I should imagine we will sell out and we’ll go there looking for a result. They are flying at the moment and they’ve got some good players. We understand this isn’t an easy league but we’ll be giving it everything we’ve got.”
Wilder’s refusal to dismiss this weekend’s match Glanford Park as ‘just another’ League One fixture reveals much about the type of environment he is creating behind the scenes at Bramall Lane. Many of his predecessors have attempted to shield their players from the demands associated with representing United. Wilder wants them to embrace the pressures and, despite expressing frustration at attempts to judge his squad before the League One season is even 10 games old, accepts it is all part of the job. A new no-holds-barred training regime reflects this confrontational approach.
“You’re putting 24 or 25 lads together in the changing room and they are working each other out,” Wilder continued. “You do certain things but it does takes time. The intensity of the training has stepped-up, if you ask the lads. Monday to Friday aren’t just days to get through before a game. You have to go full tilt. The personality of the players are starting to come out now. That will only grow and get better as the season goes on. It’s not just about Saturday afternoons and some Tuesday evenings. It’s Monday to Friday through the week. There’s a really good intensity to training and I think that’s important.”
Sixth-placed United make the short journey north searching for their fifth win in as many league outings after overcoming Oxford, Gillingham, AFC Wimbledon and Peterborough en route to Lincolnshire. Matt Done, restored to his preferred attacking role after spending much of last season at wing-back, has scored in each of his previous two outings.
“Matty gets in and should possibly have scored late on,” Wilder said. “He gets himself into good situations, gets good chances and is playing well. They all are to be fair. His work ethic is outstanding and his play is decent as well. I’m glad that he’s enjoying his football and I think it seems to suit him.”
Leaders Scunthorpe moved two points clear at the top of the table when they drew with Charlton Athletic on Tuesday evening. Lee Turnbull, who joined Oldham after leaving his post as United’s head of recruitment in May, was appointed to Graham Alexander’s backroom staff earlier this month. One of his protégés, Dutch centre-forward Kevin van Veen, nearly scored a late winner against the Londoners but the match finished all-square.
Although United have employed a 3-5-2 formation in recent weeks, Wilder demonstrated during the meeting with Peterborough that they are flexible enough to adapt to different challenges. Daniel Lafferty, on-loan from Burnley, was withdrawn at half-time with his replacement Stefan Scougall urged to support Done and Billy Sharp.
“We didn’t want their momentum to grow, that’s why Daniel came off and Stefan came on,” Wilder said. “He’s a crowd lifter and a threat.”