Kevin Gage's Sheffield United Column: Chris Wilder has every right not to be happy with losing to Liverpool... he's a WINNER and isn't about to change his ways now
Well, if the football world didn’t know what Sheffield United Football Club was all about before Saturday’s game with Liverpool, then anyone who watched it can no longer be in any doubt whatsoever.
This is not only one hell of a good team, but Bramall Lane is a quite wonderful venue with fans who typify the description of ‘supporters’ of their football team. As a spectacle both on and off the pitch, it was everything I’d hoped and looked forward to, and more… much much more.
After slogging away for all those years in League One, this was the first of those extra special Premier League matches against the very cream of English football that we are going to be treated to this season and, after that display of everything that is good about our football club, we can’t wait for the rest of them!
We’re back, and with performances like that, we aim to stay around for a while yet.
However, amongst all the pundits’ praise, the complimentary words in the media spoken and written about Saturdays game, the standing ovation from all four sides of the ground, and the general ‘feel-good’ factor that we all had as the afternoon and weekend unfolded, one man made his feelings quite clear that he didn’t really buy into it.
It’s the only person’s opinion that actually really matters, and although we’ve come to expect it these days after the last three seasons, some others in the game thought he was being a bit harsh with his brutal honesty on both player and team performance. From my point of view, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Yes, we played extremely well indeed, against a team who’d won their previous FIFTEEN top flight matches and are top of the league and favourites to win it. Yes, we nearly got a point, and arguably we even deserved a point in some people’s minds, including mine.
Yes, we limited one of Europe’s best attacking outfit to only FOUR shots on target, with the first one taking 70 minutes to arrive! Yes, yes, yes, there were lots of positives from the day. BUT, you feel there’s a ‘but’ coming from my assessment… and here it is. But we lost. At home. Again. For the third time in a row, with a cup defeat too.
And do you know what? Chris Wilder has every right to not be particularly happy about it.
Because Chris Wilder doesn’t do losing. He never has, and it’s why he’s had the career success he’s had. And believe me, he’s not going to change his ways now.
Even though it’s widely acknowledged we’ve had a decent start to our Premier League campaign, and sit relatively comfy in mid table, we need to getting something from these home games – at the end of the season our home record will almost certainly be better than our away one and therefore if our home record isn’t that great, we’re going to struggle to survive.
It’s as simple as that. I’m certainly not panicking yet but from this moment on, I’d rather we gained more points, not more plaudits.
I’ve written and spoken about our defence previously, so the last two displays from us have come as no surprise to me at all. They will all continue to do their defensive jobs, and do them superbly well.
I’ve also said previously that our defensive strength will keep us in the division and I stand by that statement. But perhaps I should have put a caveat on that so it doesn’t come back to haunt me, because it was made on the understanding that our attacking play will be good enough to create and take the required amount of goals to win enough games in this division!
On Saturday, it was certainly good enough to do the creating part, but as we all saw, the taking bit let us down.
It wasn’t even that we missed umpteen glaring chances, but having worked the ball around brilliantly and getting into some wonderful positions for strikes at goal, we just came up short when it truly mattered and didn’t test or really trouble their ‘keeper at all. We saw Oli McBurnie cut inside and fire straight at him, when a controlled curved finish into the far corner was required.
Ditto, 10 minutes later when Callum Robinson shot wide from the edge of the box, when under very little pressure and on his stronger right foot. He went for sheer power, when a bit of poise and placement would have been better suited.
On both occasions the efforts got an ‘OOOOHH’ and a round of applause but I was biting my tongue on Radio Sheffield commentary duty and banging the table in frustration.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but then again I think most of the ground thought similar when John Fleck failed to pull the trigger and rifle a left-footer on goal late in the second-half. He has many great attributes to be an established top quality Premier League midfielder, but he wont got there by shooting with his right foot!
So, it’s fine margins once again, and a case of ‘what might have been’ Saturday. Praise from all quarters, and we came close, but ultimately, no cigar.
Next up is Watford, and a great chance to maintain our remarkable unbeaten record on our travels that stretches way back into last season on our promotion campaign.
After less than 10 games, it’s not a going to be season-defining match by any means, but with Arsenal next at Bramall Lane followed by a visit to on-form West Ham, it suddenly becomes vital to get something.
And if that something is a point or three, then I’ll happily take it over more praise any day. We’ve had enough of that, and we don’t need any more.
We’ll just settle for the points from now on please… Plaudits can do one!