Sheffield United: What happens during training at the Steelphalt Academy this week can shape the entire season

If those left behind expected an easy week, they were sorely mistaken.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 15:40
John Egan (left) and Enda Stevens (centre)

Five members of his squad might have waved au revoir to Bramall Lane after being called-up by their respective countries but Chris Wilder, whose side entered the international break on top of the Championship, is still overseeing a gruelling schedule at Sheffield United's training complex.

"It's great for the boys going away," he said. "It's a proud moment for them and a proud moment for us to get that recognition.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

"But the others boys, the ones who are staying behind, will be working extremely hard. They'll be doing that because, when we come back, we've got a game against one of the favourites to go up in Derby County."

Although the type of work United can do will be extremely limited - Oliver Norwood, the Northern Ireland midfielder, takes the majority of their set-pieces - Wilder still believes the next week-and-a-half are of critical importance. 

Not least because, after seizing control of the race for Premier League football, he recognises opposition teams are likely to tweak their approach during games against United. Hull City, who were beaten by Wilder's men four days ago, could be forgiven for adopting a conservative approach given their poor start to the campaign. But Wilder and his staff suspect, rather than being a one-off, Saturday's match signalled the beginning of a trend. Hence their desire to investigate new ways of breaking down packed defences.

"Whatever we do, we like to train how we play," Wilder continued. "And we've got to be in good shape to play the way that we do.

Goalkeeper Dean Henderson

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"The principles won't change. The basics of the way we go about things will always stay the same. But you've always got to try and evolve, look at what you can do better, and that's what we intend to do."

A commitment to attacking football is one of the basic tenets of Wilder's regime, with nine members of his starting eleven spending more time in City's half than their own during the meeting with Nigel Adkins' side.

Although it means no team in England has returned a better points per game average since August 10 - like United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool have accumulated 2.5 - Wilder's strategy also places huge physical demands upon his players. United will therefore be pleased that Norwood is the only member of their international contingent set to travel more than 1000 miles before returning to South Yorkshire.

Wales' Ben Woodburn, Dean Henderson of England under-21's, and Republic of Ireland duo John Egan and Enda Stevens all enjoy relatively stress-free programmes.

Ben Woodburn (right)

"That's why the attitude and professionalism of the lads is all important," Wilder said. "We've got a group together who, as well as being good players, want the best for the club and the dressing room as a whole as well."

Oliver Norwood