Sheffield United: Oliver Norwood is issued with a warning...of sorts
Oliver Norwood knew Chris Wilder was joking
The chances of him being left out of the starting eleven which faces Burnley tomorrow are slim to nothing.
But the Sheffield United manager's decision to question the assumption that Norwood is assured of a role against his hometown club confirmed no one, not even a player who regularly captains his side, should take their status for granted.
"Oliver has got to get in the team first," Wilder responded when asked, during his pre-match press conference, about the midfielder's role against Sean Dyche's side. "Unless you know something I don't, that's what his job is right now. To show us that he's worthy of being in."
Norwood admitted Wilder had come clean about his comment when their paths crossed afterwards.
"He told me what he's told you," the 28-year-old explained, before holding his own Q&A session with the media.
However, although only injury or illness are likely to cost Norwood his place given the creativity he brings to United's engine room, Wilder's reaction revealed how tension is being used behind the scenes to fuel his squad's push towards Premier League safety.
"We're constantly looking to drive it forward," Wilder said. "You can't ever get comfortable at this level. It's different to the Championship, in the sense there's no Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday schedule. But it's got that real intense feel you'd expect of top-flight football."
If Wilder does choose the make changes for the visit of Burnley, they are likely to come in attack where David McGoldrick, Callum Robinson, Lys Mousset, Billy Sharp and Oli McBurnie are all vying for position following a major recruitment drive last summer.
Eighth-placed United, the highest of all the newly promoted clubs, are unbeaten in three ahead of their game against opponents Wilder regards as a "template" for his own side to follow.
"They leave everything out there," he said. "It doesn't matter who they are playing, they're always all in."