Sheffield United: Manager ignores calls to soften his approach over Christmas

John Lundstram: Lynne Cameron/SportimageJohn Lundstram: Lynne Cameron/Sportimage
John Lundstram: Lynne Cameron/Sportimage
Chris Wilder has introduced a series of forfeits to ensure increase competition levels during training after warning it would be a mistake to soften his approach over the Christmas period.

The Sheffield United manager made the admission in response to suggestions that losing Leon Clarke and Ben Woodburn to injury meant it might be be wise to introduce a less confrontational regime until Bramall Lane's first team squad returns to full strength.

Rejecting that idea out of hand, Wilder said: "The conditioning is key, the work that they do away from the lights.

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Manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/SportimageManager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"You've got to put that mind set in, about working hard. There's forefits on our training ground for losing teams.  Listen, it's not about people booting each other or going in full pelt. We appreciate you can't have that.

"But you need the right attitude and I look for that. We're big on that here. I don't believe you can turn it on and off like a tap."

Woodburn has spent the past few days in a protective boot after damaging an ankle as United prepared for last weekend's game against Reading. Leon Clarke also missed the visit to the Madejski Stadium, with scans suggesting he  aggravated an old injury during United's recent meeting with Brentford. The centre-forward, who scored the winning goal at Griffin Park, took part in the game after volunteering, in Wilder's words, to "push himself through the pain barrier."

"Fair play to Leon for that," he continued. "He knew we needed options and it tells you a lot about him that he was willing to do what he did. He's not done himself any favours in the long-run but you can't complain when people show that mentality."

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Leon Clarke: Simon Bellis/SportimageLeon Clarke: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Leon Clarke: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Friday's clash with West Bromwich Albion is the first of four fixtures United are scheduled to contest before facing Wigan Athletic on New Year's Day. Despite praising both the durability and depth of his squad in recent weeks - "I think that's one area, the numbers, where we've improved on last season" - Wilder is aware losing more first team players would potentially damage United's bid to secure a top six finish.

But he insisted: "Listen, people go on about easing off but you could get injured walking down the stairs. If you wanted to take that mindset then you'd never train at all in case something happened would you. That risk is just part and parcel of football and you get on with it. 

"I don't want the players going full steam into each other or going over the top. We're not stupid. But I don't want to wrap them in cotton wool either because that doesn't happen on the pitch. There's nothing to worry about either, because the forfeits aren't financial."

Emphasising that Clarke's condition can not be traced back to events at the Steelphalt Academy, Wilder is hopeful the 33-year-old will be declared available for selection against Darren Moore's side. 

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If not, reflecting upon John Lundstram's successful return to the starting eleven in West London, he said: "You saw with Lunny why it's important to do it the way we do it. If we didn't train with intensity, he wouldn't have been able to come back into the team after a while out and immediately pick up the speed of Championship football.

"I actually think we've had very few fitness problems, despite the way we prepare and play, so credit has got to go to the medical and conditioning team for that."