Sheffield United: Has Chris Wilder's frankness already paid-off?
It was a calculated gamble but, after watching his squad work at the Steelphalt Academy this week, Chris Wilder suspects it has already paid-off.
Describing a performance as "arrogant", telling those involved to leave Bramall Lane by a "side door" following a wretched display against National League Barnet, was not an easy decision for a manager who frequently espouses the importance of team spirit.
But threeÂ days on from that FA Cup defeat, 72Â hours before they face Queens Park Rangers in a pivotal Championship fixture, Wilder is delighted by the response of his side during training.
"I've got to say, they've done really well," he said. "That's what we wanted to see and, to be fair to the lads, they've reacted in the right way to what was clearly a disappointing result."
Although he refused to elaborate on United's preparations for their meeting with Rangers, Wilder is set to select a more familiar looking line-up than the one beaten 1-0 by Darren Currie's men. David McGoldrick, Dean Henderson, John Egan and Enda Stevens are among those expected to return after sitting-out the third round tie while Chris Basham, Billy Sharp and Mark Duffy, who appeared as substitutes, should also feature barring any unforeseen problems. Gary Madine, signed on loan from Cardiff City, could also make his debut.
Despite insisting at the time that many of those who featured against Barnet had "blown" their opportunity to earn a starting role, a number of factors, including his desire to encourage competition, are likely to dissuade Wilder from making good on his threat that only "injuries" and "suspensions" will prompt changes from here on in.
Privately, the 51-year-old and his staff concede making 10 changes to the starting eleven which had won 3-0 at Wigan Athletic five days earlier meant an erratic performance was inevitable. But they remain convinced those thrust into action should still have dispatched the visitors from London. "Nobody liked it," Wilder acknowledged. "Nobody connected to us.
'We want to see people pushing to get in. You need that. It's important that everybody contributes and keeps standards high.'Â
United are third in the table, two points behind second-placed Norwich, after winning three and drawing one of their last four outings. Rangers, in ninth, trail sixth-placed Derby County by four having gone unbeaten since losing to leaders Leeds on December 8.
Nahki Wells put Rangers in front at Elland Road before two goals from Kemar Roofe, including a debatable penalty, condemned them to what Steve McClaren insisted was a controversial defeat.
"It was a poor decision for the penalty, a very, very poor decision," the former England manager said. "It's cost us a result, definitely.'