Sheffield United: Former manager gets in touch to offer his support as The Blades push for automatic promotion

As his team prepares to resume its push for Premier League football and prove the doubters wrong, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has drawn comparisons between the squad which faces Nottingham Forest on Friday and the one Dave Bassett led to promotion nearly three decades ago.

Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 9:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th April 2019, 11:57 pm
Sheffield United hope to be celebrating again on Friday: James Wilson/Sportimage
Sheffield United hope to be celebrating again on Friday: James Wilson/Sportimage

Wilder revealed he contacted Bassett, his friend, mentor and former manager, earlier this week after a draw against Millwall saw United slip three points behind second-placed Leeds with only four matches left to play.

Although the purpose of their conversation was personal rather than professional - the two men speak on a regular basis - Wilder admitted the subject of 1990, when United climbed out of the old Division Two after beating Leicester City on the final day of the season, also cropped-up. Inevitably so, given the similarities between the situation United found themselves in then and the one they are wrestling with now.

Wilder was still a player when, during the closing stages of Bassett's second full campaign at the helm, United were beaten 4-0 by their rivals from West Yorkshire. The result prompted many people associated with the club to concede defeat in the battle for the top-flight. But not, Wilder remembered last night, either Bassett himself or those under his command.

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Less than one month later, after winning three of their remaining four fixtures, United were up following a memorable afternoon at Filbert Street.

"Harry's attitude was positive and his players were fighters," Wilder said. "For me, with the lads here now, there's huge similarities.

"He was saying how, when we got done by four, he was listening to a load of directors on about how it was over. How that was that and that promotion wasn't going happen. Dare I say it, there was probably a few supporters thinking that too.

"You have to quickly overcome it. You do that with good players and good characters. These are the same, the lads here now."

Former Sheffield United manager Dave Bassett

Clearly, given the downbeat narrative which followed their result against Millwall, Wilder believes United can use events under Bassett as a source of inspiration now. Indeed, despite acknowledging a combination of injury and suspension has complicated his selections, Wilder thinks being written-off by all and sundry will appeal to his players' combative nature.

"I've not been given my career and the players haven't either," Wilder, who started his coaching career with Alfreton and Halifax, said. "I've had to fight for it all and so have the boys.

"They've not been given anything in their careers or this season. It's not a time to put the white flag up. Even though I think a few of our supporters might have put the white flag up. I haven't and these players haven't."

United are without Billy Sharp and Chris Basham for the visit of Forest and Monday's trip to Hull City, although John Egan will return at the KCOM Stadium after being sent-off against Neil Harris' men. The centre-half saw red for deliberate handball on the goal line, before Jake Cooper's 94th minute equaliser cancelled-out Gary Madine's opener for United.

Sheffield United's players stick together, says Chris Wilder: James Wilson/Sportimage

Leeds face Wigan Athletic, where Wilder's striker Leon Clarke is on loan, and Brentford over the Bank Holiday period. They have not won any of their last nine outings at Griffin Park; a record dating back to the early Fifties.

"There's still plenty of points to play for," Wilder, whose side are third, said. "One match, one weekend, can change everything."

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.