The big headache facing Sheffield United ahead of Boxing Day

By rights, it should be one of the most straight-forward decisions he makes all season.

Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 12:34 pm

But speaking ahead of his side’s Boxing Day game against Watford, which could see them record a fourth straight victory in the Premier League, Chris Wilder has admitted that selecting a team for the meeting with Nigel Peason’s side is not as easy as might seem.

Citing the attitude of those players on the periphery of his starting eleven as a major factor behind United’s successful start to the campaign, the 52-year-old used events during last weekend’s win over Brighton and Hove Albion to support that theory.

“I think we’ve had selection headaches right the way through the season, from (captain) Billy (Sharp) right the way through. That’s the attitude of the group. I think you see that when they perform.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Luke Freeman of Sheffield Utd in action during the Premier League match at the American Express Community Stadium, Brighton and Hove. Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“We made a change Saturday, and obviously Lys (Mousset) was disappointed not to be in there from the off.

“But you saw his attitude when he came on, wanting to change the game.

“That’s why we’ve had, I think, the consistency. Because of that attitude among the boys, wanting to push.”

After beating fellow newly-promoted clubs Norwich City and Aston Villa en route to the AMEX Stadium, United climbed to fifth in the table when Oli McBurnie, recalled at Mousset’s expense, scored the only goal of the game midway through the first-half.

Midfielder John Fleck missed that match through suspension and could return to face Watford at Bramall Lane.

But Wilder admitted the performances of Luke Freeman and Ben Osborn, who deputised for the Scot at Albion, had captured the imagination of both himself and his coaching staff. The duo were signed, from Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest respectively, following United’s climb out of the second tier.

“One of the big messages to people is that they can’t drop off,” Wilder said. “It is tough for people not in the team, having to come up here on a Saturday in the wind and the rain, not being out there in front of 30,000 people.

“But they will do it and they have to do it, because they are professional footballers.

“Luke, in a slightly different role to QPR, has adapted so well. Ben, he has impressed all of us.”