Tomorrow's friendly against Stocksbridge Park Steels marks the beginning of a period with the power to define Sheffield United's season, manager Chris Wilder has admitted.
The visit to the Look Local Stadium, United's first outing since May, is the first of six games Wilder's squad will play ahead of next month's Championship meeting with Swansea City.
Despite recovering from the broken leg he suffered at Burton Albion in November, Paul Coutts is not expected to feature as Bramall Lane's medical staff look to ease him back into action. But the midfielder did take part in yesterday's swimming session at Ponds Forge with the rest of Wilder's squad. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson, signed on loan from Manchester United, also completed the work-out.
"This is the base, the thing everything else we do is built on," Wilder said. "People say results aren't important at this time of year and, to some extent, that's not entirely untrue because you're looking to work on various things and get the lads' legs up and running again.
"But, at the same time, show me a bad game to win. There isn't one. We're professionals and so, every time we set foot on the pitch, we want to come out on top. That's the mentality."
United also began their summer friendly schedule at Stocksbridge last term, running out 9-0 winners before going on to mount a play-off challenge. That fixture saw Wilder name a different starting eleven in each half; something he is expected to repeat again.
"Ideally, we want as many as possible to get a run out," Wilder, whose team travels to Portugal for Thursday's meeting with Maritimo this weekend, continued. "That's one of the things we're looking to do."
Stocksbridge PS versus Sheffield United, kick-off 7.30pm.