Sheffield United: ‘I’m really not interested in what happens elsewhere’
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, is refusing to be distracted by events elsewhere in the Championship as his team prepares to face West Bromwich Albion this weekend.
United visit The Hawthorns on Saturday evening, with both teams chasing automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Although his squad are second, two places above Darren Moore's side with 13 matches remaining, Wilder said: "I'm not interested in what Leeds do or what Norwich City do.
“We can't affect what happens there so I'm genuinely not interested in them unless we're playing them. All I want to do is focus on ourselves and make sure we get results because that's something we can influence. We can't influence what other clubs do so it's a waste of time worrying about that."
United will travel to the Midlands hoping to avenge December's 2-1 defeat by West Brom at Bramall Lane, when second-half goals from Gareth Barry and Kieran Gibbs cancelled-out David McGoldrick's opener. Together with Barry, who impressed in midfield, Harvey Barnes was the architect of that comeback but the 21-year-old has since been recalled by his parent club Leicester City. Gary Madine, Kieran Dowell and Scott Hogan have all arrived in South Yorkshire during the intervening period, as Wilder attempts to bolster United's top two credentials.
"All we do here is look forward," he said. "You take lessons, you try to learn from everything. But what we've always done is try to drive things on, keep progressing and looking in front, not back, at what's happened before."
With Chris Basham set to return from suspension and medical staff hopeful that Jack O'Connell will recover from the hamstring injury which has forced him to miss the last two games, United's biggest decision agead of the trip to West Brom could centre around Oliver Norwood, now one caution away from an automatic ban.
History suggests Wilder will task him with anchoring their midfield, despite knowing a booking would rule him out of the derby against Sheffield Wednesday. But Paul Coutts, Norwood's most obvious replacement, needs game time having played only 135 minutes of football since the turn of the year. The ideal scenario, unless the Northern Ireland international can negotiate safe passage through the next four matches, when the totting-up rule will cease to apply, would be to start with Norwood before introducing Coutts during the closing stages.
Leeds, a place behind United but with a game in hand, have selection issues of their own after it emerged Kemar Roofe damaged knee ligaments during their recent win over Swansea City. The two clubs meet at Elland Road on March 16, with Marcelo Bielsa as yet unsure when his leading goalscorer will return. Roofe has scored 14 league goals in 26 appearances this term.
"The focus is on us," Wilder reminded. "Making sure we're ready and right. Nothing else."