Chris Wilder's tricky balancing act as Sheffield United prepare to take on Fulham

Alan Biggs on a key as aspect of Sheffield United's preparations ahead of a return to action after the international break
RED CARD: Sheffield United's Mason Holgate is sent off against Brighton and Hove AlbionRED CARD: Sheffield United's Mason Holgate is sent off against Brighton and Hove Albion
RED CARD: Sheffield United's Mason Holgate is sent off against Brighton and Hove Albion

When fans say “we never got near them” it’s normally in the sense of their team being outplayed, outclassed. But you could also apply it in a literal sense to Sheffield United’s series of horror shows at Bramall Lane.

So perhaps the redemption starts with that - getting much closer to their opponents in physical distance, however gaping the gap in quality. In other words, as people in the game often say, “letting your opponent know you’re there." But not entirely in the way you might be thinking.

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In the past, this was often a euphemism for clattering someone. The earlier and the harder the better. You wouldn’t get away with that now and I can’t think of a manager who’d advise it.

The last Sheffield United player who let somebody know he was there in that manner was Mason Holgate, albeit without deliberate attempt but it left him banned for three matches. Coincidentally the on-loan Everton defender is now free to return. But I was referring more to the need to avoid picking up a yellow card early in a game.

So it’s a tricky balance for Saturday’s visit of Fulham who, despite being only 12th, have some gifted individuals and are well capable of taking teams apart. As they showed against Spurs last time out.

It goes against the grain for Chris Wilder not to have a go at opponents, in the sense of taking games to them, but right now his first priority has to be making them competitive.

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If that means an emphasis on planning to negotiate the first half with none of the early implosions seen against Brighton (twice), Aston Villa and Arsenal then you couldn’t argue against it.

Bramall Lane needs to see some regaining of pride and self-respect, which, with an escape from relegation highly unlikely, arguably ranks above the result. But if United succeed in that mission they’ll have a much better chance of springing a surprise.

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