Sheffield United: Chris Wilder highlights an important but often-overlooked reason for his team’s success so far this term
It would be an exaggeration to describe them as the unsung heroes of Sheffield United's season but, as his managerial rivals lament their growing casualty lists, Chris Wilder has chosen to shine a light on the contribution Bramall Lane's physiotherapy and conditioning departments have made to the club's performances this term.
After emerging from last weekend's visit to Norwich City with another clean bill of health, United enter the the final 17 games of the campaign with a full strength squad at their disposal ahead of Saturday's game against Bolton Wanderers.
Having elected to run with a smaller group of players than many other teams in the Championship, a decision he believes has kept morale high behind the scenes, Wilder acknowledges it is crucial United avoid the type of issues which prompted Daniel Farke to complain about City's injury record during the build-up to their meeting with United.
But the 51-year-old, whose side are third in the table, does not believe their durability, which is fast becoming the envy of the division, has come about by accident.
"The work the physios and the fitness people do is brilliant," Wilder said. "They're a huge part of what we do and, for me, it shows what you mean when you say that everyone associated with a club has a part to play if you want to put yourself in a position to try and achieve something."
Although centre-forward Leon Clarke and defender Kean Bryan struggled with minor issues during the build-up to Christmas, it was July when United last saw a player - Jake Wright - ruled-out for any considerable period of time.
Before the defender fractured a cheekbone during a pre-season friendly against Stocksbridge Park Steels, they had gone nearly 10 months, since Paul Coutts broke a leg at Burton Albion, without sustaining any major issues.
Given the intensity of United's football and the fact even their centre-halves run around eight miles per game, it is a remarkable sequence.
Attributing that record to research rather than good fortune, Wilder said: "So I think it goes back to recruitment, planning, pre-season and the base you put it. It goes back to the general week in terms of planning, by not overloading but not being under cooked.
"Obviously things like the Couttsy scenario, you can't do anything about. Contact injuries, they happen. It's the other things you can try and take care of. It's about trying to gain those small margins and percentages."
Wilder's theory explains why, despite enjoying good relations with many of his counterparts, he has little sympathy for those who use poor fitness as an excuse for poor results.
"When I hear people talking about injury lists, if you look through and think 'contact, contact, contact', yes I have sympathy," Wilder continued. "If it's not, is their training right? Is it set up right for how they want to go about things? But I'm not going to criticise any other clubs."