Chris Wilder is aiming to stall what he believes is Derby County’s inexorable march towards Premier League football when Gary Rowett’s side visit Bramall Lane this afternoon.
Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, backed the visitors to win promotion this season after revealing his respect for Rowett last night.
But Wilder, who insisted his team are capable of causing an upset, dismissed suggestions his comments are a psychological ploy designed to heap pressure on the Midlanders.
“This is a proper match,” Wilder said. “It’s a club who I’m sure will get it right this year.
“I know Gary pretty well. He’s someone I can pick the phone up to and talk about players. He took a similar pathway to me, starting at Burton. He took Birmingham over when it was a shambles and was unlucky, as everybody recognises, to lose his job. This, we believe, is our toughest test so far at home. But we’ve got nothing to lose. It’s a great game for us, the players and supporters to get their teeth right into.”
Wilder, who started his managerial career at Alfreton before moving to Halifax, added: “The managers before him have been outstanding. Who can knock Steve McClaren? But it’s how different people work.
“It’s been quite an unpredictable team in the past but what this manager will want to do is go the other way; get the consistency to get out of the division. I’m not heaping it on them and I wouldn’t because Gary is a pal. But for me, when you look at the package there, they are right up there for me. Right on a par with Middlesbrough.”
Wilder cited United’s character and camaraderie as driving forces behind their march to the League One title last term.
Confirming he will delay naming his starting eleven because of “a few of the lads have got knocks,” the 49-year-old thinks County, following Rowett’s appointment, are cut from the same cloth.
“They’ve had some outstanding individuals but Gary knows it’s about the team as a whole too,” he said. “It’s about the team ethic. That’s not being critical of anyone else, because they’ve had some fantastic managers, but I know that’s a quality Gary will bring to Derby County. If you’ve got individuals and that team ethic, it can be a powerful thing to stop.”