Sheffield United: Why Chris Wilder takes an unusually positive approach to international call-ups

In recent weeks, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has proved actions speak louder than words after insisting he would never ask any of his players to put club before country.

Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 22:37 pm
David McGoldrick in action for Sheffield United: James Wilson/Sportimage

When Oli McBurnie found himself at the centre of a manufactured media storm last month, having been accused of disrespecting Scotland, the 52-year-old personally contacted his counterpart at Hampden Park to reassure him of the striker's commitment. More recently, Wilder pledged to do everything within his power to ensure David McGoldrick could link-up with the Republic of Ireland this week despite missing United's game against Watford through injury.

Although he is keen to foster good relations with the respective FA's, Wilder also has a vested interest in promoting the international credentials of those under his command; believing the experience they gain makes them better footballers.

But, speaking ahead of the latest round of Euro 2020 qualifiers, Wilder acknowledged his strategy does not come without risk.

"Of course you hope they all come back okay," he said. "If I tried to pretend we're not a bit anxious about that then I'd be lying. Every manager and coach will tell you the same thing.

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"So that's what we're hoping for now, because we've got a huge match coming up next. We want everyone to be okay."

United, 13th in the table after eight Premier League outings, host Arsenal immediately after the international break. The meeting with Unai Emery's side marks the start of a challenging sequence of fixtures, with West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United also on the agenda before the end of November.

With the overwhelming majority of his team either making their way through the divisions with United or acquired from EFL clubs, Wilder is of the opinion that facing elite level opposition on a regular basis will make them more effective in the top-flight.

"Getting exposed to different players, the best their countries have got to offer by definition, that can only improve you," Wilder said. "That's got to bring you on and that's the benefit for us. Although I'd never tell anyone not to go, because it (international football) is the pinnacle of our profession."