Sheffield United: Blades boss delivers a message to his team’s promotion rivals
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has opened a new front in the psychological war surrounding the battle for promotion from the Championship by suggesting some of his team's nearest rivals could face financial difficulty if they fail to secure Premier League football next term.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow's match at Aston Villa, which could see United climb to the top of the table, Wilder insisted the pressure on the visitors pales into insignificance compared to some of those around them in the division.
"There's no gun to our head to get up," he said. "But that does not diminish our ambition.
"We know we've got to play well to get a win at Villa Park. But there's no pressure on us. There are a lot of teams who have to get out of the division."
United travel to the Midlands in third, three points behind leaders Norwich City and second-placed Leeds but with a superior goal difference to both. Villa are ninth but know a win would see them move to within touching distance of the play-off positions.
United triumphed 4-1 when the two sides met earlier this season although, with Dean Smith taking charge a month after that fixture, Wilder warned September's events will have little bearing on how their latest meeting unfolds.
"You have days like that," he said. "That wasn't a week in week out performance. You wish for that and you dream for that. you take great pride in it.
"They had an off day, we caught them at the right time, but we still had to play very well. It was '8's' and 9's' all the way through the team. People will have great memories of it. But we get no advantage now because of the change of manager and change of venue."
"Villa could jump out of the pack, easily," Wilder added. "The players they have at the top of the pitch, they've got an unbelievably talented group. If it clicks, they can win four or five on the bounce. If they do that, they'll find themselves well in there."
Sophie Jones, the United Women's forward, has been charged by the Football Association with allegedly racially abusing an opponent during a recent fixture. Tottenham Hotspur's Renee Hector complained she "received some monkey noises" when the Londoners visited United's OLP Stadium last month. Jones, signed from Sheffield FC, has until February 15 to respond.
Although United did not name Jones, a statement published on their website said: "The club works closely with the EFL, the FA and Kick it Out and would like to reiterate that it does not condone racism or any form of discrimination.
"Sheffield United will not comment further on the subject until the conclusion of the formal FA disciplinary hearing."