Sheffield United: The question responsible for Chris Wilder’s mood swing ahead of Saturday’s Championship showdown with Norwich City
After laughing and joking his way through the first part of the interview, Chris Wilder's mood suddenly changed.
No, he insisted, Sheffield United would not gladly take a draw at Carrow Road this weekend. They will be prepared and set-up to beat Norwich City.
"We've got no other intention than to win," Wilder said, leaning forward in his chair to accentuate the message. "You've heard it from me before and you'll hear it from me again. That's always our aim here. It's what we always go out for. And that, I can tell you now, is never going to change."
Delivered in response to a question about the race for promotion from the Championship, Wilder's words served to fuel to sense of anticipation ahead of this potentially pivotal game. United travel south tomorrow fourth in the table, only three points behind their second-placed opponents and a further one behind leaders Leeds.
But what really makes the contest so appealing is the approach of both clubs. United always play with gusto while only West Bromwich Albion have scored more goals so far this term than Daniel Farke's side.
Although no professional worth their salt ever enters a contest to lose, what makes United stand-out from the crowd is the ferocity and continuity of Wilder's tactics. With City and Marcelo Bielsa's team set to meet next weekend, a share of the spoils would represent a satisfactory return for the 51-year-old and his squad ahead of their home game against Bolton Wanderers. But, to borrow one of Wilder's favourite phrases, United will still go 'all in'; employing attacking wing-backs and over-lapping centre-halves despite knowing defeat would leave them six points behind the top two.
Whatever the outcome, United's manager warned against drawing concrete conclusions about how the battle for the top-flight will eventually turn out.
"Are Norwich guaranteed to win games? Are Leeds guaranteed to win games? Are we guaranteed to win games?' Wilder said. "It wasn't so long ago that everyone was looking at Leeds and Norwich and saying 'that's them gone, they're out of reach and over the hill.' That's not how this division is."
"To be where we are, us and Norwich, with the budgets compared to others up here and the fact we were probably both unfancied at the start, that tells you what the Championship is all about," he added. "Look at Nottingham Forest losing to Millwall recently after getting at draw at Norwich, and then going on to beat Leeds."
For that reason, Wilder suspects the ability to cope with disappointment could prove crucial between now and the end of the campaign.
"Unfortunately it happens," he said. "It's how you react, how you bounce back, that counts."