Sheffield United: Why neither Chris Wilder or Phil Parkinson, his counterpart at Bolton Wanderers, will take a backward step at the Macron Stadium tomorrow
Sometimes, it is the things Chris Wilder chooses not to say rather than what he actually does which tell you the most about his mood.
Fixtures against Bolton Wanderers, where Sheffield United's manager has developed a habit of side-stepping questions about his opposite number, are a case in point.Â Lee Butler, who serves as Phil Parkinson's goalkeeping coach, might be one of Wilder's oldest and most treasured friends. Steve Parkin, the 50-year-old's trusted assistant, is also "a pal" and commands his absolute respect. But ever since United beat their latest opponents to the League One title two seasons ago, relations between the clubs have soured; meaning tomorrow'sÂ fixture at the Macron Stadium is about more than Championship points. Although Parkinson's assessment of last term's meetings clearly irritated Wilder, particularly following September's tussle in Greater Manchester, it would be wrong to describe them as enemies. Indeed, having shared digs during their days as apprentices at Southampton, they probably still get on well away from the game. But their respective personalities, which prohibit either from taking a backward step, have helped fuel a tension created by Gary Madine's social media faux pas and Ken Anderson's programme notes. It was in February last year, as United were powering their way towards promotion, when the seeds for this disagreement were laid. Madine, now of Cardiff City, had already been caught insulting Billy Sharp on Twitter when Anderson, Wanderers' owner, went on to make some bizarre comments about his team's 2-0 defeat at Bramall Lane. Criticising the hosts for adjusting the ticket allocation for away supporters, the former accountant and football agent also used his notes in Wanderers' official matchday publication to accuse Samir Carruthers of diving before claiming John Fleck should have been dismissed. Wilder, never one to shy away from conflict, doubtless remembered this slight when the two sides met again seven months later. Parkinson, who is cut from exactly the same cloth, fanned the flames by suggesting United were fortunate to win that encounter before describing Wanderers as "terrific" when they avenged that result midway through the campaign. Wilder concurred and even showered Madine with praise. But the words were uttered through teeth gritted so tightly they almost impossible to hear. Both United and Wanderers enter thisÂ clash in encouraging form, with the latter third in the table after winning three of their opening four games. Neither will regard it as a grudge match but Mark Beevers, the Wanderers centre-half, acknowledged there is no love lost between the two squads following Tuesday's victory over Birmingham City. "There's quite a bit of rivalry between us and Sheffield United," he admitted, "Going back to League One. "When Gaz (Madine) was here he took a lot of the limelight to be fair, so it's upsetting now he's gone. "But it's just another game for us, we'll prepare exactly the same as we have in the first four games and we'll look to get another win on the board." Wilder is approaching it in a similar manner as United look to build on their victories over Queens Park Rangers and Norwich City. "Everytime you pull on a United shirt, it means something," he said. "You never want to lose any kind of game."