Alan Biggs Sheffield United column: Cup tie atmosphere at Bramall Lane can make all difference to Chris Wilder’s men
Don’t have much truck with old quotes – except when the message is this strong. And the timing so important.
Chris Wilder picked his moment after Sheffield United’s last home game.
His ten men had dug out what the opposition manager called a “season-defining” 2-0 win over Brentford.
It was merely suggested to Wilder that the scenes at the end showed how much that result meant to players and fans alike.
The full text of the answer, in terms of the crowd’s acclaim for the team, is worth repeating at what truly is a season-defining time;-
“Rightly so for the players. Rightly so. Sometimes it takes a bit of adversity to really get our crowd moving and pushing the players on – and the supporters certainly gave the players a lot.
“I think now they deserve that right the way through (games).
“For the last four home games, for me, this place should be absolutely sold out and absolutely rocking.
“Because the players deserve that. For me it has to be that way.”
The first of those four is upon us, Bristol City on Saturday –after an almighty win at Leeds in between that lifted Wilder’s team to second.
Those comments have been interpreted in various ways. A veiled dig? Possibly. But cleverly put, focusing on a positive rather than a negative.
Here’s what I think Wilder meant: THE PLAYERS BELIEVE AND SO DO I. CAN YOU BELIEVE WITH US AND HELP CARRY US OVER THE LINE?
The background, of course, is that there are plenty of historical reasons not to. Believe, that is.
All those near misses, those agonising failures in the play-offs, one solitary season in the Premier League since 1994.
If there is an air of fatalism among some supporters then you can understand it.
I think it’s part of a coping mechanism.
Preparing for the worst is a partial painkiller. It’s the hope that kills you etc.
But the fact is United have a fantastic chance of top two promotion – and that chance increases the louder and prouder Bramall Lane can be in these crucial final games.
I don’t normally go in for drum-beating on this scale. After all, it’s a standard plea from clubs and managers in almost any circumstances.
As someone who doesn’t have to pay to watch or go through the same emotional wringer as supporters, far be it from someone like me to tell people how to support.
But I do feel it’s worth amplifying the manager’s comments in this case, having become convinced that this team’s ambitions are both real and attainable.
And make no mistake, the Blades are well supported, although – and this may have to do with economic factors – this season’s home average (25,618) is, surprisingly, slightly down so far on last season’s 26,854.
But it’s quality rather than quantity of support that matters now, much as you’d expect the numbers to go higher.
There are bound to be some awkward moments when faith is tested because that is the nature of the Championship.
Equally certain is that a cup tie atmosphere, of the type generated late in the Brentford game, can help transport the best team since Neil Warnock’s class of 2005-06 – and arguably better in many respects – to the Premier League.