Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has threatened to wield the axe this summer after questioning whether some of his players possess the qualities required to win promotion from the Championship.
But Wilder, after a 2-1 defeat at Birmingham City all but ended the visitors’ top six hopes, challenged them to prove him wrong during Saturday’s final home game of the season against Preston.
“One or two have maybe got a bit comfy,” he said. “Some on the outside maybe haven’t pushed hard enough and have gone a bit individual. I’ve been in the business long enough to not know what to do if that’s the case.”
“I hope it’s not right,” Wilder continued. “But I put it out there so it’s up to them to prove it’s not the case. If they are, you know what’s going to happen. I can’t build the sides I have in the past or going forward with that mentality. We work to a plan and you have to sacrifice yourself even if you aren’t playing to make sure the team works.”
United slipped to 11th in the table with only two matches remaining after goals from Marc Roberts and Jacques Maghoma cancelled-out Mark Duffy’s opener.
Although they are only three points behind sixth-placed Millwall, both Wilder and Duffy acknowledged losing to Garry Monk’s side means last term’s League One title winners are now unlikely to earn an immediate shot at the top-flight.
“My biggest thing now is that I have to be careful,” Wilder admitted. “Careful that I don’t get it wrong between someone who is tired or who thinks ‘I’ve made it as a Championship player.’ Their fight was bigger than our fight. Maybe some of them, their race is run? There looked like there were some really tired bodies and minds out there. They’ve put in a lot of work lately. That’s a consolation I can take.”
“I don’t want to take anything away from Garry or Birmingham,” Wilder added. “They deserved to win and Garry has won games since coming in. But they are where they are, at the lower end, because they haven’t played as a team most weeks whereas, to be fair, we have.”