Sheffield United: Chris Wilder has no intention of playing a “dangerous game” by taking promotion for granted

Over an hour after recording a win which saw his team take another giant step towards the Premier League, Chris Wilder was still a model of respect and restraint.

By James Shield
Wednesday, 24 April, 2019, 12:49
Chris Wilder manager pushes his assistant Alan Knill to the forefront: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Yes, he admitted, Sheffield United's victory over Hull City represented a statement of intent. Particularly, their manager went on to remind, when you considered the circumstances surrounding the game. But there was nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest this was someone on the verge of greatness. Indeed, when the idea was put to him, it simply elicited a shrug of the shoulders.

"We're back in at work tomorrow," Wilder said. "Because there's a big match to prepare for. We want to finish at home with a positive result. But the opposition will be wanting one as well."

With Leeds losing at Brentford later that evening, Wilder could be forgiven for downplaying the significance of United's result at the KCOM Stadium, where first-half goals from David McGoldrick (2) and Enda Stevens propelled them to a comfortable 3-0 victory.

But even if the scheduling had been different, it is doubtful if events in West London would have changed his demeanor.

Wilder and his squad, now three points clear in second with only two matches remaining, only have eyes for this weekend's opponents Ipswich Town. Not Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester City.

The reasoning behind the 51-year-old's downbeat approach is simple. Lose to Paul Lambert's side, which despite the visitors' troubles this season is not beyond the realms of possibility, and it could hand their rivals from West Yorkshire an unexpected lifeline back into the top two race.

Although third-placed Marcelo Bielsa's side face Aston Villa on Sunday - 24 hours after United's meeting with a club already relegated to League One - they round-off their campaign against Lambert's men early next month. And, despite Stoke City's mediocre results this term, United's final match, at the bet365 Stadium, appears infinitely tougher than a trip to East Anglia.

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So better, Wilder believes, to take care of business before indulging in the "noise and nonsense" making he has criticised in recent months.

"We go into every single one with the same attitude and approach," Wilder said. "That's focusing on ourselves, doing the things that enable us to play as we want to play, and having respect for the competition. Having that respect means you don't take anything for granted. Because, quite simply, you can't.

“There are good players across the division, everyone has good players, so that's a dangerous business."

Although United's superior goal difference tips the odds in their favour, an analysis of where Town have picked up points under Lambert should be enough to bring them back down the earth. After holding Wilder's men to a draw at Portman Road in December, the visitors from Suffolk have also taken points off Derby County, Bristol City and West Bromwich Albion; the latter two away from home.

Psychologically, Leeds appeared to have hit rock bottom after losing at Griffin Park. But as he looks to orchestrate a response, Bielsa will have reminded those under his command that Tammy Abraham, scorer of 25 league goals so far this term, could miss the trip to Elland Road with a shoulder problem.

With Villa preparing for an assault on the play-offs, manager Dean Smith will surely err on the side of caution if there are any doubts about the on-loan centre-forward's fitness.

"There's another two (matches) to go and that's all I'm bothered about," Wilder said. "That's all everyone else should be bothered about too."