Sheffield United: Chris Wilder calls for a rule change ahead of crunch West Bromwich Albion clash

Chris Wilder is too long in the tooth, too respectful of his opposite number, to provide Darren Moore with any psychological ammunition ahead of this weekend's showdown with West Bromwich Albion.

Thursday, 21st February 2019, 13:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st February 2019, 13:38 pm
Chris Basham is available again following suspension: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

So, although the subject inevitably reared its head during today's media conference, the Sheffield United manager refused to be drawn into the debate about Dwight Gayle's suspension for diving. Or, as the Football Association prefer to call it, "successful deception of a match official". 

Privately, however, Wilder is surely less than impressed by the situation surrounding the on-loan centre-forward. Not because he has an axe to grind with Gayle; a player he tried to sign himself 12 months ago. But the fact Chris Basham served the same length of ban for collecting 10 yellow cards probably irritates him intensely. So much so, Wilder has repeated his call for the 'totting-up' rule to be amended by taking into account how easy it has become for players to be cautioned.

Oliver Norwood: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"We've not picked up bans for diving or arguing," he said, "That stuff is avoidable.  

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"I fully expect, being a competitive team, that we're going to pick up bookings. I genuinely feel, with how the refereeing of games has changed, that the number you need to get suspended should be higher."

Basham was sidelined after surpassing the 10 game limit before the 37th fixture of the campaign. The defender, who is available for selection at The Hawthorns, has actually had his name taken on 11 occasions but because he was dismissed during December's win over Blackburn Rovers, the two yellows he received then effectively counted as one.

Despite Basham's return to the fold for the visit to the West Midlands, the subject of raising the threshold remains pertinent at United because Oliver Norwood is now on the verge of being banned. The midfielder enters the meeting with fourth-placed West Brom only one caution away from being ruled-out for two fixtures. Unless, averaging one every 3.18 matches this term, he can negotiate safe passage through the next four matches, which also pit Wilder's squad against Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham and Brentford.

With Gayle being sidelined for a penalty-winning dive against Nottingham Forest earlier this month - the resulting spot-kick earned his team a draw - there is a school of thought that either sentences for deceiving a referee should become more stringent or players guilty of less influential offences must be treated more leniently. Wilder, like many of his counterparts across England's leading four divisions, suspects the punishment does not always fit the crime.

"I do think we need to look at it," he said, after leading United to second following last weekend's win over Reading. "It's become a lot easier to get booked now. I'm not saying that's a good or a bad thing but, particularly if you are someone who tackles, in what is still a physical contact sport, it means you are going to pick up a lot more.

“And, even though we want to get rid of the stupid, dangerous stuff that used to go on, we don't want to drive that physical element out of the game."