Sheffield United: Chris Wilder has no need to play mind games ahead of Saturday's trip to former European champions Nottingham Forest

There was no need for mind games or pop psychology.

Thursday, 1st November 2018, 4:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 1st November 2018, 4:58 pm
Sheffield United are two points clear at the top of the Championship table: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Instead Chris Wilder, rather than twisting the narrative surrounding Saturday's visit to the City Ground, could let the facts and a Greek shipping magnate speak for themselves.

Sheffield United, the Championship leaders, are confident of victory. Evangelos Marinakis, Nottingham Forest's owner, is demanding nothing less. Marinakis, the 51-year-old from Piraeus who completed his takeover nearly 18 months ago, informed Aitor Karanka's squad it is promotion or nothing following last weekend's draw with Leeds. United, who could move five points clear at the top if they win, have enjoyed a much more serene build-up.

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"We have got play well, it's top-end Championship football, against a powerful, traditional club," Wilder, the United manager, said. "I really enjoy going there. It's been talked about, quite a lot, their spending during the summer. We can't do anything about that. We just need to go and deal with a very talented team."

Although Wilder has previously expressed frustration with aspects of United's governance, most notably the on-going battle for power between HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kevin McCabe, results have ensured their focus remains solely on football. For the time being at least.

It is not a luxury Marinakis has afforded Karanka; the man he tasked with restoring Forest to their former glories. But after bankrolling nearly £30m of spending during the summer and subsidising a wage bill to match, Marinakis' decision to blur the lines between bootroom and boardroom should come as no surprise to the Spaniard. Particularly, assuming he performed due diligence before accepting the position, given his employer's colourful and often controversial past.

The son of an MP and member of the EPON resistance movement, Marinakis was elected to home city's council following a campaign where, according to news agency Reuters, sports and politics "openly" mingled "in a country where contacts between the two are usually conducted behind the scenes."

But Chris Wilder says Nottingham Forest will be favourites at the City Ground: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Before adding Forest to a portfolio which also includes Olympiacos, Marinakis became embroiled in several well-publicised episodes with opposition players and, most famously, a referee. Despite holding a degree in international relations, Forest's proprietor has little time for diplomacy.

Wilder and United, who make the short journey south searching for a sixth win in eight outings, will attempt to exploit the tension caused by Marinakis' outburst in their usual fashion. Forest, six places and points behind them, are not paralysed by fear. But, following Tuesday's EFL Cup defeat by Burton Albion, a slow start could see the doubts begin to creep in.

"Different owners do different things," Wilder continued. "Any job you go into, you talk to the owners and you understand there might be expectations. Whether they are real, or unreal, you have a decision as manager to go there.

"We are still in November. Forest are a team who can definitely win four or five games on the spin and catapult themselves into the top two.

Evangelos Marinakis, the Nottingham Forest owner, will agree

"There's no getting away from the fact that they have heavily invested in the summer, and that's the pressure of investment you sometimes have to deal with."

'I don't read anything in to what happened at Burton though,' he added. 'They made lots of changes and, in those situations, these things can happen. I'm not expecting it to have any bearing here.'

Albion, managed by Wilder's predecessor Nigel Clough, produced the type of performance which exposed Forest's strengths and weaknesses. The United manager, who watched the tie from the stands, will have noted the persistence of Karanka's side. But also, when he reviews his notes, how their rearguard struggled to cope when Albion attacked in numbers. Despite the former Real Madrid defender's risk-averse approach. With Wilder cut from totally different cloth, this fixture promises to be an intriguing clash of styles.

"You want both sides," he said, referencing how Karanka guided his previous employers Middlesbrough into the Premier League. "I would definitely take getting there in any way I have to set up or coach.

Lewis Grabban is one of several big money signings Aitor Karanka has made

"The success that he's had, he's a full-on proper manager. We will have to be at it to get a result."