Sheffield United: Chris Wilder proposes structural change as The Blades prepare to visit Stamford Bridge

It isn't the most pressing item on English football's agenda. When Chris Wilder tabled his proposal, following Tuesday's Carabao Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers, Bury were about to be expelled from the EFL while Bolton Wanderers had just been granted a final stay of execution before potentially suffering exactly the same fate.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 16:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 16:35 pm
Sheffield United in training earlier this summer: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But when the dust settles on arguably the most painful episode in the competition's 131 year history, and administrators finally address the game's broken financial model, the Sheffield United manager hopes they will consider taking another important step. One, he believes, the majority of those involved at the coal face would welcome with open arms.

"There's a place for reserve leagues," Wilder said, explaining why he felt compelled to make a raft of changes ahead of the second round tie. "It's difficult, because of the rules associated with the under-23 divisions, to actually organise games. It's as simple as that and it's something I don't get. If it was up to me, which it isn't, then I'd definitely bring the reserve leagues back."

Although accumulating Premier League points is Wilder's priority, as United embark upon their first top-flight campaign since 2007, the knockout tournaments serve an important purpose for the 51-year-old and his squad. After naming an unchanged starting eleven for the first two matches of the season, and then only one enforced switch against Leicester City last weekend, Oliver Norwood was the only surviving member of the team which faced Brendan Rodgers' side to open the win over Rovers. Oli McBurnie, Mo Besic and Ravel Morrison made their full debuts during the 2-1 win, with the latter being named man-of-the-match after providing the assist for United's second goal.

Chris Wilder wants to see reserve team league reintroduced: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

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Speaking afterwards, Wilder acknowledged progressing through to the later stages could actually help rather than hinder his club's efforts to establish itself at the highest level.

"There's no substitute for competitive football," Wilder said, looking ahead to Saturday's visit to Chelsea. "The players will benefit from a really competitive game, both physically and mentally too. We've not made huge alterations (to the eleven) and you want people to be ready and sharp to step in at a moment's notice. Because you never know what we might decide to do or what might happen."

"That's another reason why I think there's a case for bringing the old reserve leagues back," he continued. "You can only play three overage players in the under-23's now and so that means you've got to try and do behind-closed-doors fixtures and stuff like that to keep people up to speed. But it's tough.

"And with the under-23's, what if we do put three lads in? How do they feel about it, say, if it's a Monday night game in Cardiff or somewhere? The eight or so others would be alright, but what about the three? Personally, I'd just bring back a reserve league and then it's up to the young lads to try and get in that team."

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Wilder's preference for exposing academy players to to rigors of lower or non-league football betrays his suspicions about the effectiveness of the present model.

"The timing for loans is key," he said. "Our under-23's is a very, very young group. So you've got to get the timing right; sending them into proper man's football if you like. But it's not something I would ever want to stop because it's vital. There's a time when everyone needs to go and play football where something is really riding on it. And also in a different environment to the one they're used to, because that's great for their experience and development."

Despite acknowledging their performance left much to be desired, Wilder felt the timing of United's meeting with Rovers means they will travel to west London better prepared than might otherwise be the case. Physically - with Ben Osborn and Billy Sharp among those also getting minutes under their belts - and psychologically too. Indeed, as United get set for their biggest test of the season so far, Wilder appeared to take some sort of perverse pleasure from watching his side labour against Tony Mowbray's charges but grind-out a positive result.

"I told the players, I'll take the blame on that one, I'll take the hit, because of the number of changes I made," he said. "With the rhythm we play at, most of the time, it's difficult. And I changed the shape two or three times, so that's something I'll look at going forward."

"Sometimes, you don't play as well as you want but get a result," he said. "They, Rovers, they played really well and didn't get one. That's what you've got to do at times, dig-in and see it through."