Sheffield United striker labels top of the table clash as 'huge, absolutely huge'

Katie Wilkinson has drawn parallels between Sheffield United Women and Chris Wilder’s Premier League squad as Carla Ward’s side attempt to take another important step towards promotion.

Saturday, 11th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 11th January 2020, 6:05 am

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s FA Championship match with Aston Villa (kick-off 2pm), which pits first versus second at the Proact Stadium, the centre-forward told The Star that visits to watch Wilder’s team in action have fuelled the self-belief of their female counterparts.

“I think there’s so many similarities between us,” Wilkinson, who started her career with Villa, said. “I go and watch the boys in pretty much every single home game and I’m really struck by that. The two managers go about things in the same way as well.”

“Carla likes to create a real family atmosphere but one where everyone works hard,” she added. “If someone wasn’t pulling their weight then they’d get called out, no doubt about it. The same goes for the men because that’s what Chris demands first and foremost as well.”

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Katie Wilkinson is under no illusion about the importance of Sheffield United's game against Aston Villa

United will enter the match three points behind leaders Villa, but a win would see them climb above Wilkinson’s former club on goal difference.

The 25-year-old, who received the divisional player of the month award earlier this week after scoring five goals in her last three league outings, was signed from London Bees following United’s fifth placed finish last term. She represented Villa after progressing through Birmingham City’s youth programme.

Explaining her success in South Yorkshire, Wilkinson admitted: “I’m a Villa fan, most of my family and friends are Villa fans and I spent a lot of years there. But all of them want us to win this one because they know how much we put in.

“Since I left Villa, I haven’t really felt as if I’ve found a home but all that changed after coming here.”

“Really, the key is just the enjoyment,” Wilkinson, who has scored 17 goals in 16 outings so far this term. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows because we can eff and jeff at each other if it needs doing.

“But, just like the men, we’re a big family and we’ll fight for each other as well. And if we’re anything like the men, then we’ll go really far.”

Wilder’s players have acquitted themselves well since gaining promotion nine months ago, and prepared for last night’s game against West Ham ranked eighth.

Despite only being granted second tier status last season, Ward’s charges are also making waves having won nine and drawn one of their contests since Championship competition resumed in August. That defeat came at Villa on the opening weekend of the campaign, when a Melissa Johnson hat-trick cancelled-out efforts from Olivia Fergusson and Wilkinson.

United also entertain Manchester City in the Continental League Cup on Wednesday but Wilkinson said: “We’re not even thinking about that yet because this one is a huge game. It’s absolutely huge. From here on in, every single league game we play is so important.”

*Tickets for United’s games against Villa and City are available as part of a two match package, priced £5 and £3 concessions, from Bramall Lane box office. Season ticket holders can gain free entry to both fixtures upon production of a valid card at the turnstiles.