Sheffield United: Chris Wilder says perspective is needed at Bramall Lane as Blades 'punch above their weight' in Championship
Two years ago this weekend, his side propped up League One with one point from four games and his dream job was on the verge of becoming a nightmare.
So, as Chris Wilder prepares to lead his Sheffield United side into what threatens to be an intriguing Championship duel against Norwich City this afternoon, you can forgive him looking for a bit of perspective.
Ambitions have, of course, been altered since the success of that first season, which saw United sweep all before them and break records left, right and centre on the way to the league table and 100 points.
Then came last campaign, when United recorded memorable wins over Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds and threatened a second successive promotion before eventually finishing a credible 10th.
That, and news from Bramall Lane of Wilder being handed an improved transfer budget in the summer, altered perceptions somewhat - even though United are still unable to compete financially with what Wilder estimates is a large percentage of the division.
By and large, the manager won’t have a problem with that. Ruthlessly ambitious, he took United to tenth last season with a bottom three budget and won’t target anything less than progress.
But then the season began. United, facing two difficult opening games against recently-relegated Swansea and likely promotion contenders Middlesbrough, were 0-2 and, so early in a 46-game season, were bottom of the table.
“One of the things I do not want to happen is that the atmosphere changes around the place to a negative one,” the United manager said.
“I do not think I, the players or the staff deserve that, because of what we did last year.
“We are working to repeat that, and we’ll only be able to judge that at the end of the season.
“Who’s to say we don’t get off to a bit of a slower start and then come through on the rails like Millwall did last year.
“To get the results, we need a positive environment. I always praise the supporters regarding that, and that is what we need.
“We feel there is, because of the first two results, a bit of ‘this, that and the other’, but with the players we have brought in and because of the results and performances last season,
expectations have gone through the roof.
“We have created that. But that does add a bit of pressure.”
United, according to Wilder, are still “punching above their weight” in the Championship despite improved summer spending, which saw £4m spent on new club record signing John Egan and Oli Norwood join from Brighton in a deal thought to be worth around half that.
“We do at times have to be careful that we do not heap too much pressure on players,” he said.
“We are still punching above our weight, big time. I have no problem with that.
“We still have to improve on that and want to improve on last year. But the league has improved and so have other clubs.
“Everybody else is doing it in a different manner and fashion. We have done it through being smart in terms of what we have had to use, players we have brought in and additions we have made in terms of specific improvements to positions.
“The players we have signed in the summer make us stronger, and we are looking at one or two others when the window shuts.
“What I am looking for is the general attitude of the group, which is fantastic. The desire to want to do well is just as good if not better than they wanted to do last year.
“We have to step up to the plate and produce performances and get results.
“If we finished where people possibly expected us to finish last season, and maybe should have finished in terms of where our budget was sat, people would be looking to improve on that.
“But I wouldn’t change a thing of what we did last year, how we went about it and the experiences and memories we created.
“We want to go again. But we have to keep our feet on the ground. It is a long season, and we’ve got to not get too carried away when we win, or not too down when we don’t get the results we want.”
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