Sheffield United: Festive period can be key for Blades, says Enda StevensÂ
Successive home defeats at Bramall Lane have seen Sheffield United slip off the pace in the race for Premier League football '“Â but Enda Stevens knows that a bit of Christmas cheer over the festive period can propel the Blades right back into the mix again.
After losing at home to Leeds and West Brom - a sequence interspersed with an impressive win on the road at Reading '“Â United fell to fifth, eight points behind their West Yorkshire rivals who sit top of the table.
Chris Wilder's men, though, are only two points behind the Baggies in third and can look to cut the gap this weekend when they make the long trip to Suffolk to face Ipswich, the Championship's bottom club.
United then welcome top-six rivals Derby County to Bramall Lane on Boxing Day and face Blackburn at home three days later, before travelling to face Wigan on New Year's Day.
And defender Stevens, who is expected to make his 24thÂ appearance of the season at Portman Road, said: 'I enjoy this time of year. There's such a quick turnaround of games so there's no time to dwell '“Â it's just onto the next game.
'So if you can string a run of wins together it can stand you in good stead going into the new year.
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'But there are no guarantees. This is Championship football and every game will be tough, so we have to make sure we're at it every time we step out on the pitch.'
Stevens also praised the mentality of boss Wilder and his staff, and knows the only way he will continue to be involved with the Republic of Ireland set-up under new boss Mick McCarthy is to perform for his club.
'We all know our jobs but have a freedom to go and play from the manager and his staff. We're not robots; we have licence to express ourselves.Â
'The menality the manager and his staff bring is a winning one, and they don't settle for anything less. That builds in the players and the squad."
On his international future, Stevens added: 'I obviously hope it continues but the only way I can ensure that happens is by performing well for United.
'I was sad to see Martin [O'Neill, McCarthy's predecessor] leave as he brought me in and have me my chance. But I'm looking forward to working under the new manager and know I have to impress him.'