Sheffield United: Why Chris Wilder isn't falling for Hull City's hard luck stories
Before he began discussing tomorrowÂ afternoon's fixture, Chris Wilder wanted to make an important point.
Forget their league position. Ignore the doom-laden narrative at the KCOM Stadium. Hull City, Sheffield United's manager reminded during his pre-match media conference, boast a squad stuffed full of expensive talent.
"It's a dangerous game," Wilder insisted. "They've got good players and had some really big results away from home last year. That's been the message we've given to our players. And, let's not forget, they've had 24 hours more preparation than us."
Although he could not resist another dig at the fixture schedule, claiming it places his team at a serious disadvantage, the purpose of Wilder's address was to shine a light on the visitors who, despite Nigel Adkins' best efforts to portray them as underdogs, boast 10 senior internationals within their ranks. Indeed there is a school of thought that City, like their namesakes from Birmingham, are using off-the-pitch issues to try and disguise their under-performance on it.
Certainly, with players such as Kamil Grosicki, David Marshall and Markus Henriksen at his disposal, it is difficult to make a case that Adkins' side should find themselves languising 21st in the table.
Yes, Wilder's words were a psychological ploy. But one based on cold, hard facts.
"If you look through their squad, if you look at the numbers they've paid for them, they've got quality there," Wilder continued. "Roll back to Birmingham City, who we drew with here not so long ago, and look at the quality and the numbers they've paid for players.Â
"People think you can just roll up and win these games. Well actually you can't. We have no divine right and anything can happen in a game of football. We have to make sure we are at it as much as we were at Millwall and Blackburn."
United climbed to third in the table when, after triumphing 3-2 in south London, they beat Tony Mowbray's men 2-0 on Wednesday night. Twenty-four hours earlier, City were beaten 1-0 by Leeds; a result which prompted Adkins, Wilder's predecessor at Bramall Lane, to describe Marcelo Bielsa's team as the "best" the division has witnessed for many years. His comments were criticised by City's supporters and, when they were raised yesterday morning, a sceptical response from Wilder himself.
"That's yet to be proved isn't it. But Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham weren't too bad last year were they. What I would say is that it's more evenly matched this season. I'd agree with that."
Depending upon results elsewhere, United could enter the international break on top of the Championship if they beat City at Bramall Lane. Side-stepping questions about the potential implications - "Nobody's getting ahead of themselves, at least not here" - Wilder did admit his squad's direction of travel is a source of pride among coaching staff. United finished 10th, six points behind the play-off positions, after challenging for the top six last term.
"In a lot of Championship teams, they'll have a good season and think 'we've landed.' Football, or any sport for that matter, isn't like that," Wilder said. "We're pushing them more than last year.Â
"There's undoubted ability in the squad but the attitude has been really good. That's not the 14 or 15, it's going into the 21 and 22."
"It's in front of us to win and they've shown a great attitude and character," he continued. "They are playing well and consistently well. Okay, there's been patches where we've dropped off and patches where we've hit the heights.Â
"But this group wants to do well for themselves and the football club. We're asking questions of them and at the moment, they're coming up with the answers."
With United not arriving back in South Yorkshire until the early hours of Thursday morning - "The roadworks meant a few of the lads were quite late into their beds" - Wilder could make changes for the meeting with City. However, with United not back in action for another 14 days, the suspicions are he will select the same starting eleven responsible for ending Rovers' long unbeaten record at home.
"They will sit back and try to frustrate us and our crowd," Wilder said, attempting to second guess Adkins' tactics. "I might be wrong but I think that's what they'll do.
"They'll certainly try and quieten our crowd so, although I want them to be aware of that, I think they'll have a job on because of the passion of ours fans."