Sheffield United: ‘Pressure? What Pressure?’ Chris Wilder rejects suggestions his team could crack
Sheffield United's players are inspired rather than intimidated by the challenge of trying to reach the Premier League, manager Chris Wilder has insisted, as the battle for automatic promotion grows increasingly fierce.
With only three points separating the Championship's leading four teams, second-placed United enter this weekend's game against fellow contenders West Bromwich Albion knowing the outcome will help shape events at the top of the table.
But Wilder, who led United out of League One at the first time of asking after being appointed in 2016, said: "For far too long, this club has been involved in meaningless end of season matches. Last season, we took it to the penultimate game, the 45th, and who is to say we won't take it on even more this time around?
"Nothing can be taken for granted. Absolutely nothing. But what I do know is that the lads have worked hard to put themselves in this position and they're enjoying being in this situation. After all, this is what everyone comes into football to try and do."
"This is what we are here for," Wilder added. "We are not seeing out a season and trying to keep our heads above the dotted line.
"Whether it's Forest, Leeds, Villa whoever, there is is in a nutshell. It's difficult to win games of football in this league but the boys are putting a real shift in and doing everything in their power to make sure we continue to do that as best we can."
West Brom are fourth but moved to within a point of United after beating Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday night. United travel to The Hawthorns hoping to avenge their 2-1 defeat when Darren Moore's side visited Bramall Lane in December although Wilder is convinced attention to detail, not raw emotion, holds the key to success in the West Midlands.
"You'd much rather be involved in matches where there's something at stake than nothing," he said. "So we're going to continue what we're doing, stay focused, and stick to the principles that have got us this far."
"It's all about being careful and precise," Wilder continued. "Making sure we do what we do well from here on in and, without wishing to sound boring, just concentrating on the next game and the next game only."
United could recall Chris Basham for the meeting with West Brom after he completed a two match suspension. Fellow defenders Jack O'Connell and George Baldock have been undergoing treatment for hamstring and calf muscle injuries respectively, although Wilder is hopeful both will join Basham in his matchday squad.