Chris Wilder’s temper had markedly improved when, 48 hours after his withering appraisal of their second-half display against Gillingham, Sheffield United’s players reconvened for training ahead of tonight’s meeting with Fleetwood Town.
The sight of James Hanson reclining on a nearby sofa and knowledge that talks with Jay O’Shea had reached an advanced stage meant the League One leaders’ manager was back to his usual self during yesterday’s pre-match briefing inside the Steelphalt Academy’s canteen.
But, as he laughed and joked with the media, Wilder warned there must be no repeat of the slipshod performance which saw United drop two valuable points last weekend. Because, he reminded, not even a team challenging for promotion is exempt from criticism.
“Footballers, I think, have become far too precious in my opinion,” he said. “We are all for taking the good stuff when it happens and there’s been a lot of good stuff happening since we came in. But we have to improve and also take that bit people don’t always want to hear. Get on with it. If you can’t get on with it then you are probably in the wrong profession to be fair.”
Wilder, revealing that Daniel Lafferty has recovered from the back injury which has seen him miss the last two games, accused his squad of being “big time” during their 2-2 draw with Adrian Pennock’s side. Despite refusing to apologise for his comments, the 49-year-old insisted the fact he uttered them at all should be taken as a compliment.
“I’m confident our players aren’t precious,” he said. “I know they’re not, I know their characters. They just need, at times, to add that little bit extra which takes us clear. There’s a couple of teams chasing us down and there might be others chasing us down further on. We just want to keep driving it forward. We aren’t moping around, we’re looking to get back on with it.”
Fleetwood arrive at Bramall Lane fourth in the table and unbeaten in 10 league outings.
“I’ll always say something if it needs to be said but I’m a positive manager and there’s lots of times I’ve been in that dressing room absolutely delighted with them and how they’ve done,” Wilder added. “I just want to make the most of the situation and for them to get their rewards. We should have sent, with all due respect, Gillingham packing down the road with how that game went. But you have to earn the right. Points are difficult to come by.”