Sheffield United: ‘These boys aren’t going away’ Chris Wilder’s message ahead of huge showdown with Leeds United

The line was borrowed from Jurgen Klopp but fitted the mood at Bramall Lane perfectly.

By James Shield
Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 3:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 3:48 pm
Sheffield United celebrate David McGoldrick's goal: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United celebrate David McGoldrick's goal: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

You don't get rid, Chris Wilder warned his team's promotion rivals following a courageous win over Brentford, of Sheffield United easily.

A day ago, as they were cruising to victory at Reading and heading to the top of the Championship table, word filtered through to Leeds' coaching staff that United, this weekend's visitors to Elland Road, were facing arguably their toughest test of the campaign so far. 

Leading 1-0 but down to 10 men with over an hour of the match remaining, Marcelo Bielsa and his three assistants almost certainly sensed Wilder's men were destined to lose ground in the race for a top two finish.

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But when the final whistle blew in Berkshire, the Argentine's demeanour had changed. Nearly 200 miles to the north, United had not only preserved their advantage but, following David McGoldrick's header during the closing stages, extended it too.

The result, which Brentford's Thomas Frank later described as potentially season defining moment, provoked a revealing comment from Wilder and set-up Saturday's showdown perfectly.

"The players have always had that belief," Wilder said. "Sometimes, us, it's that pessimism we have as Yorkshire people and because of the all the things that can go wrong and maybe have gone wrong in the past. 

"But this is a new group of players and a new group of staff. It's relentless, with what we're going into now. But the players showed that attitude to say 'We're not going away.' They're not going to be pushed ouy of anything without a fight."

Although he would have preferred a much easier warm-up, Wilder will privately acknowledge the meeting with Brentford could actually prove ideal preparation for his squad's trip to Leeds. Played in front of a sold-out crowd, the contest promises to be a test of calibre. But, with only only two points separating the fierce Yorkshire rivals, camaraderie will also help decide its outcome. Events against Brentford, where they dragged themselves off the ropes and came out punching, have served to strengthen the ties that bind United's squad.

"I'd like to think so, I hope so," Wilder replied when asked if, like Frank, he believed the result could set the tone for United's remaining nine matches. "But you can only look back at the end of the season. 

"In the first year, when we got promotion from League One, we looked back at certain games along the way. We did the same last season, when we took the challenge (for the play-offs) until the last but one game as well. 

"But you can only do that if you are successful. It felt like a big win for the supporters and it felt like a big win for the players."

"The players put their bodies on the line, everybody, all of them, did that," he added. "I'm not saying it was comfortable, because it wasn't.

"If you look at Brentford, that is the one team in the division, the one team, that you wouldn't want to go down to 10 men against. Because of the way they play, the movement, the way they shift the ball and their possession stats. But the boys showed what they're about and how much they wanted it."

Although United will travel to Leeds without Gary Madine, whose red card changed the dynamic of the fixture with Thomas Frank's men, Wilder still has a wealth of attacking options at his disposal. Billy Sharp and McGoldrick, who were both introduced during the closing stages, could start while Scott Hogan was withdrawn for tactical rather than fitness reasons.

"We've got lads available," Wilder said. "And to have as many of them available is testament to the planning and work of the conditioning and physio people. Plus, the professionalism of the boys themselves."