Sheffield United: How Chris Wilder demonstrated he could probably solve Brexit as The Blades prepare for Bristol City test

As another Brexit omnishambles unfolded in Parliament, Chris Wilder found himself standing on a terrace at Sheffield United's training complex discussing a nail-biting finale to the Championship campaign.

Friday, 29th March 2019, 3:39 pm
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 6:37 pm
Sheffield United's players celebrate their win over Leeds: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Like the honourable members, he was unable to say what the future looks like or how the final eight games will pan out. But, in stark contrast to those vacillating inside the Commons, United's manager knows exactly what he wants and how best to get it.

"The lads aren't daft," Wilder admitted when questioned on the table where his team currently occupy second place. "They know what the situation is.

"We know it as well because we're not daft either. We won't shy away or hide from anything."

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Spain's squad also spent time near Valencia: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

What sounded like good advice for MP's was actually a blueprint for United's footballers as they prepare to return following the international break. Wilder's squad are unbeaten in 10 and searching for an eighth successive clean sheet after beating fellow contenders Leeds earlier this month.

But with only a point separating them from Marcelo Bielsa's team in third, it is still far too early to predict how the race for automatic promotion is destined to finish.

It was a theme Wilder was keen to run with when he previewed tomorrow's visit of Bristol City - "very tough opponents" - during his latest pre-match press conference.

"When people talk about 'it's theirs to lose' and all that, it's just noise and nonsense to me," he said. "There's still a lot of football left, still a fifth of the season to go, and that's quite a lot in my book.

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

"The phrase 'twists and turns', I bet you guys in the media will tear the a**e off that one between now and the end of the season. The defining moments will come later than now.

"All we are trying to do is win another difficult game of football. The only thing that matters is what's directly in front of us."

United's preparations for the meeting with City received a boost on Thursday when it emerged all eight members of their squad selected for international duty had arrived back in South Yorkshire all present and correct. The rest, including Oliver Norwood and captain Billy Sharp, travelled to Spain after the win at Elland Road and spent productive days at a facility near Valencia.

Wilder, who also made the journey with members of his coaching staff, described it as a working visit. But, after 38 gruelling fixtures, he suggested the benefits would be psychological.

"A bit of sun, a change of environment and a change of routine as well, that what it was all about," Wilder said. "Dear me, I'm going to get killed for saying this but also a break from taking the kids to school and picking them up from school, stuff like that.

"I'm not being soft on the players but it is a competitive sport in terms of the boxes you've got to tick. We've tried to change it up. We've done boxing scenarios and different pieces like that, especially at this stage of the season."

"Even though I love being here and I love my city, sometimes it's good just to change it up a little bit," he continued. "We've planned to take them away for a while.

"If you speak to all the players, they possibly worked harder while we were away.

"The facilities were great, the Spanish national side were using it. Listen , if we're 3-0 down after 10 minutes this weekend it will have been a waste of time."

City travel north ninth in the table and without a win in six after previously nine games in a row. But only three points behind Aston Villa, who occupy the fourth and final berth, Lee Johnson's men harbour Premier League ambitions of their own. Especially as they have played two matches fewer than their rivals from Villa Park.

With City triumphing 1-0 when the two clubs met at Ashton Gate earlier this term, Wilder said: "Lee has got a very talented group. You don't do what they've done, with the cup runs they've been on and all of that, without being talented. And like us, they've been in and around it for two seasons now."