Sheffield United: '˜Pressure? What pressure?' Why Chris Wilder is confident his players will not crumble as they chase promotion

Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, insisted his players are equipped to handle the psychological challenges associated with a push for Premier League football after watching them climb to second in the Championship.

Sunday, 13th January 2019, 11:55 am
Updated Sunday, 13th January 2019, 11:59 am
David McGoldrick's goal lifted Sheffield United to second in the table: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Steve McClaren, the Queens Park Rangers manager, described United as a top six team in waiting after watching David McGoldrick's 10th goal of the season end the Londoners' unbeaten run following a hard-fought contest at Bramall Lane.

Those comments confirmed, despite his efforts to persuade otherwise, that Wilder's squad are now perceived as genuine top-flight contenders by rival coaches and professionals alike. 

Chris Wilder is pleased with his team's approach: David Klein/Sportimage

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But, insisting United can draw upon the experience of their League One title winning campaign two seasons ago, Wilder said: "I think there is a saying about heavy shirts and I don't think we have had heavy shirts in my time here.

"There have been teams that have played here who have had that weight of expectation and we try and lift that off them as staff and give them the freedom to go and play.

"A big Jack O'Connell challenge in front of me was possibly the biggest cheer of the day so they have to do all parts of the game. We try and take that expectation off the players, but having said, they talk to you guys about wanting to achieve and wanting to be in around the top of the division and I am not going to hide away from their desire and ambition."

Wilder, who was appointed in May 2016, added: "We were in League One for six years and there was an awful amount of pressure every year that goes by and you are still in League One. 

"You saw what happened as seasons went by, we were under big pressure to do the business in that division and they didn't show heavy shirts then.

"It doesn't feel any different, really. Whether we step out on Bramall Lane or away from home I still expect them to play well. We are expected to win games at this football club with the history here and we want to keep doing that."

McGoldrick has emerged as a driving force behind United's climb up the table and scored for the fifth time in only six outings as they edged past Rangers. The former Ipswich Town centre-forward was signed on a free transfer last summer, after his contract at Portman Road expired.

Asked if he was surprised that a player of McGoldrick's calibre could find himself without a club, Wilder replied: "We were fortunate that we knew a lot of people and we were close to his home. We are only half an hour away and that was an influence on him. Touch wood he stays fit because he has been an important player for us. 

"Sometimes you need that change of environment and change of scenery. He definitely suits the way we play and I should imagine that he is really enjoying his football. 

"It's a good club, you are treated well and we allow him to go and express himself and he has been outstanding for us."

"Sometimes you do need a change of scenery, change of manager and change of players that you are playing with," Wilder continued. "He's had a really good Championship career and he is continuing that. 

"I think it's the right time for David. He's a really good lad, too. He's a proper, good, funny and down-to-earth guy who works hard and, all parts of the game, he's been excellent with."