Sheffield United: Blades boss explains identifies why Sunderland pose such a huge Carabao Cup threat

Chris Wilder knows how Jack Ross is feeling. The almost suffocating pressure, the crushing weight of expectation which comes with leading the biggest and therefore most targeted club in League One competition.

Tuesday, 24th September 2019, 4:25 pm
Updated Saturday, 28th September 2019, 5:58 am
Sheffield United beat Blackburn Rovers in the previous round: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United beat Blackburn Rovers in the previous round: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

So the Sheffield United manager also understands, as he prepares to do battle with his counterpart from Sunderland during tomorrow's Carabao Cup tie at Bramall Lane, that the visitors will pose a bigger threat than some might realise. Because for once, they can play with freedom and licence to express themselves.

Jack Ross' side, fifth in the third tier after drawing with Bolton Wanderers last weekend, have made a steady but unspectacular start to the new season after losing in the play-offs earlier this year. Wilder, who steered United out of the division at the first time of asking before leading them to promotion from the Championship, used his pre-match media conference ahead of the third round fixture to outline the challenges facing the visitors. And reminisce how, after being appointed in the summer of 2016, he ended United's own long stay in the division.

"It's not easy," Wilder remembered, "For a whole host of reasons and that getting out is a tough gig.

"If you come down twice, which is what happened there, then you end up with Premier League players who are playing in League One. Do they really want to do it? Out of ten, eight or nine of them probably don't.

"So then what you do is try to cut your cloth, and bring lads who know that division in. You need that because, without naming any names because I've got too much respect for the division, there are some places you have to go to on a wet Tuesday night you probably rather wouldn't. But then those players, even though they might be the best in their competition, might not be used to going out there in front of 25,000 people every single week."

Ross has overhauled Sunderland's squad since moving to Wearside before the start of last term, when new owner Stewart Donald tried and failed to lure Wilder away from South Yorkshire. So, with the likes of Alim Ozturk, Conor McLaughlin and Charlie Wyke among those to arrive from EFL clubs, another of Wilder's points becomes even more pertinent given United's top-flight status.

"We've seen here in the past, how players came to Bramall Lane and it was their cup final in that division," he said. "That's not being big-headed, but for a lot that's what it was and you could tell. Sunderland will have the same thing now and that can make it tough, because people really do raise their games."

"In this one, they'll be wanting to win of course and giving everything do do that," Wilder continued. "But now we're the ones that are there to be shot at again."

United enter the contest on the back of a win over Everton and, with Liverpool travelling to Bramall Lane on Saturday, are expected to make series of changes.

"We'll do as much homework on them (Sunderland) as we will the team we're playing on Saturday, when we're playing the champions of Europe," Wilder, warning a below-par display will not be acceptable, said. "We'll prepare properly so there are no excuses."

Sunderland advanced to the next stage of the tournament by beating Burnley in the previous round. United dispatched Blackburn Rovers.

"They (Sunderland) are a huge club in that division and we know that feeling better than anybody," Wilder said. "Sunderland won't want to stay in there as long as we did - six seasons - and I'm sure they won't."

"They've got a very talented manager who did well up the road," he added, referring to his Scottish counterpart. "They came within a whisker (of going up).

"If you lose in the play-offs, then it can make the start very difficult as this club knows only too well because it's got a habit of doing that. It's a powerful football club. I'm sure they will go close to getting out, but nothing is won at this point of the season. Nothing whatsoever."