Alan Biggs: Cool heads needed in heat of Steel City Derby battle

Chris Wilder and Carlos CarvalhalChris Wilder and Carlos Carvalhal
Chris Wilder and Carlos Carvalhal
You know those key words commentators pick out of politicians' speeches, the ones they use for effect to drive the message.

Well, here are the buzz words around Sheffield football this week;-

Desire, drive, fire, energy, passion.

But when you stand back from it, why state the obvious? Surely all of that is a bare minimum for any match, let alone the first Steel City derby since 2012. Name me a player who won’t be desperate to win.

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Besides, what those words also imply – desperation especially - is a ferocity of competition that referees these days don’t, and can’t, allow. In reality, it can’t be entirely about all that for the benefit of either team.

Man in the middle Simon Hooper sent off a player (Fulham’s Tomas Kalas) after just 38 seconds at Reading in August, and without dispute. It was for denying a scoring opportunity rather than a bad challenge, but showed Hooper switches on from the start and is unafraid to make a big call.

Much as you’d hope that Hooper makes some allowance for a highly charged occasion (he averages only 2.5 cautions per game) , it’ll take more than “wanting it” to emerge victorious at on Sunday.

I reckon it’ll be four other things that divide Wednesday and United, if divided they are to be;-

Teamwork and belief.

Flashes of individual quality.

Mistakes (or lack of).

Calmness of thought and action in key moments.

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Maybe the last of those can be the most crucial. I’m thinking of moments like that cool, calculated lobbed volley from Steve Watson that secured the first of Wednesday’s two wins over United in the historic double of 2008-09. And also of the brilliant Marcus Tudgay goal in the return at Bramall Lane.

There have been moments in reverse across the years, of course. It’s a reminder that for all the lung-bursting effort and heroic challenges we demand on these occasions, a cool head will beat a hothead.

Maybe it’ll be a pass picked by Barry Bannon or John Fleck, a telling run and cross from Kieron Freeman or Adam Reach, a fine finish from Gary Hooper or Billy Sharp (assuming fit). Or David Brooks? Now there’s a great young talent I reckon could catch fire in just this sort of game.

As for predictions, it’s not only the players, managers and fans who have to live with the result, but also pundits who venture too far.

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Fortunately, it’s hard to see past the fence-sitter of a draw.

Wednesday have yet to consistently get into top gear this season, United are surging onwards from the momentum of last season’s promotion.

Reputations, and certainly transfer valuations, strongly suggest the Owls have the better players overall. As they should. But the Blades could argue they have the stronger unit in terms of performing as a group.

Finally, for those who think I’m afraid to make a prediction – too right! But let me tell you, I could be standing next to you in a bar with a pint in my hand and I still couldn’t call it!