Martin Smith Column: Chris Wilder has worked wonders at Sheffield United… but the chances of success in the Premier League hinge hugely on what happens in the Bramall Lane boardroom
Who’s this? “We want to be right at it, in the opposition’s faces and giving them a hard time. We don’t want it to be easy for anyone coming up against us. Win, lose or draw, that’s something we just won’t accept.”
That was new Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder (who else?) when he took over at Bramall Lane just under three years ago.
He meant it and it worked, brilliantly.
For the Blades to have a chance at the top Wilder knows he needs a good transfer window and for his team to be as committed as they were in 2016
“Everyone has got to be bang on it, in every single session,” Wilder said back then.
“If you aren’t like that in training, it won’t happen in games. You can’t just switch that on and off.”
It worked in League one and the Championship.
Will it be enough in the world’s richest and most competitive division?
Only with the right amount of support from owners currently pre-occupied by an absurdly expensive legal scrap in the High Court in London.
*An England defeat to Australia used to bring a tingle of dread, a grudging acknowledgement of their Terminator-like will to win.
Now it just stinks. Not because they won but after last year’s ball-tampering scandal they’ve lost their hard-but-good-bloke reputation. Do they care?
Seeing Steve Smith leave the field after his side’s 12-run win over England at Southampton was a sickener because he had been brilliant. Booed at every turn and likely to be so throughout the summer, Smith was at his imperious best smashing, steering and stroking boundaries all around the ground for his ominously easy 116.
Being tough under duress is what Australian cricketers have specialised in for more than 100 years. Especially against the Poms. Asking for autographs on sheets of sandpaper will just make them smile (though it is quite funny).
Jeering their every step will only make them stronger. Always happy to play the pantomime villains in an Ashes year, this time their villainy is real. And that will only strengthen their determination to succeed.
Any guilt will have been purged by an unquenchable desire to prove themselves again. A wounded and united Australian team is one of the most dangerous animals in world sport.
England are rightly favourites to win the competition on home soil but don’t expect any moral payback from the Aussies.
They’re here to win. The rest is just noise.