Sheffield United: The Blades are a totally different beast under 'breath of fresh air' Wilder
A glance through their squad list reveals why, despite sliding meekly out of the Championship last season, many people think Bolton Wanderers will prove a force to be reckoned with this term.
David Wheater and Darren Pratley are among those who remain at the Macron Stadium while, in Phil Parkinson, they boast a manager with a detailed knowledge of League One.
But, speaking ahead of today’s match against his former club, midfielder Chris Basham insisted Sheffield United are also a very different beast to the team which meandered towards an 11th placed finish three months ago.
“Everyone is very excited,” Basham said. “Some good lads have arrived at the club who can take the step up and also know this division inside out.
“There was a big clear out at the end of the season and that brought a freshness to the place. That and a new manager, who has been like a breath of fresh air.”
Chris Wilder is probably better described as a tornado given his actions since taking charge in May. Gone are the psychology sessions and motivational videos favoured by the 48-year-old’s predecessor Nigel Adkins while a recruitment policy which focused on top-flight and second-tier talent has also been overhauled. Tactically, Basham explained during Thursday’s pre-match media briefing, United are now being encouraged to run hard and tackle even harder rather than play between the lines.
“Aggression is something we have. There is a lot of tackles flying in during training. The gaffer and Knilly (assistant manager Alan Knill) bring aggression, too.
“If you are a Sheffield United player, you need to be aggressive. But also with quality and I do feel we have that in abundance. We brought in lads from their respective clubs in League One who were probably the best players there. The gaffer has brought some great quality here.”
A busy summer in the transfer market means seven players could make their United debuts against opponents set to include new signings Mark Beevers and Lewis Buxton in Parkinson’s starting eleven. On of those, former Coventry City and Rangers midfielder John Fleck, has previously worked with Basham at Blackpool.
“I have played with Flecky before and he has everything to make the step up to the Championship and then the Premier League. It is great for our club to have such a precious player,” Basham said. “He was hard to play against last year and it will be great to have him in there with me this season. Plus people like Leon (Clarke) and (Chris) Hussey. We need different dimensions in this league.”
Basham, who has also been picking Mark Duffy’s brain on how Burton Albion gained promotion last season, turned professional with Wanderers before heading to Bloomfield Road.
“Bolton is where I was as a young lad, nine years ago now,” he said. “Time flies. They have had a few ups and downs in recent years but they now have someone with a bit of stability in Parkinson. Someone who will be very organised and someone who has brought in his own players. They have had a big clearout and will be looking to be there or thereabouts.
“It will be a very tough league again this time, big clubs and others like Burton last year who can pack a punch. I spoke to Mark Duffy how they did it and I will be keeping that in-house. But we want to do the same.”
“I did look for the game early,” Basham added. “I texted Mark Davies as soon as the fixtures came out to say this will be a cracking opener. He’s a good mate of mine and another very good player.”
“At Bolton, I was more of an impact player who came on and showed my enthusiasm. I have settled down a lot since then and gained more experience.
“This is my third season at Sheffield United and all I want is success at this place. I would love to get that on my CV.”