Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes the pressure of being expected to challenge for promotion will bring the best out of his squad.
Wilder has been active in the transfer market, signing seven new players including John Fleck and Leon Clarke, since taking charge of the club three months ago.
United begin their latest League One campaign at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday and, despite admitting that performances during pre-season have not been flawless, Wilder told The Star: “The big name players and the big stars only really get properly excited when the first ball rolls. When the competitive stuff starts.”
Clarke, who scored 18 goals for Bury last season, is expected to partner captain Billy Sharp in attack when United visit the Macron Stadium. The former Sheffield Wednesday centre-forward - who also represented the likes of Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers before moving to Gigg Lane - was recruited as part of Wilder’s drive to improve United’s mental-strength after finishing 11th under his predecessor Nigel Adkins.
“He (Clarke) is one, when you talk about handling situations and environments, you know is going to do it.” Wilder said. “If you look at our two senior strikers, for want of a better word, and then talk about handling the expectation of the crowd and being a United player, you wouldn’t have any worries at all.”
“They’ll handle all of that,” Wilder continued, “Because they expect it from themselves as well. They push themselves to reach the highest possible standards in every training session and every game. All of the players have got to be like that too and, from what’s we’ve seen so far, we’re pleased with the attitude.”