Sheffield United: Why formulating a strategy to beat Burnley proved such an intriguing exercise for Chris Wilder and his team
When Sheffield United's coaching staff sat down to devise a game plan for their meeting with Burnley, it quickly became an exercise in self-analysis.
Not because Chris Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill harbour any major concerns about the manner in which their squad has adapted to life in the Premier League. Rather, as they discussed the opposition's strengths and the best way to negate them, it quickly became apparent how much United have in common with the visitors from Turf Moor. Namely spirit, selfless players and a manager who prefers to tell it like it is rather than take advice from his employer's spin doctors.
"They are a benchmark for the likes of us," Wilder said, charting how Burnley have established themselves as a top-flight club. "They produce year in and year out. I like their team. I like the way they work together. They have some great individuals. But they are a team. A team in the proper sense of the word.
"They play in a way that's effective. Sean (Dyche) doesn't get caught up in the hype that surrounds the Premier League, and there's a lot, trust me. I smile inside at times because I know what he's really thinking. I don't think he's got a lot of time for all of that."
Dyche, who celebrated the seventh anniversary of his appointment earlier this week, has been a source of advice and support for Wilder in recent years. Particularly when, having steered United out of League One at the first attempt, he masterminded last season's promotion from the Championship. Although their friendship has been temporarily placed on hold - United, ranked eighth, are a point better off than the visitors from Lancashire - Wilder's admiration for his opposite number was clear when he previewed this fixture at the Steelphalt Academy this morning.
"Sean has done brilliant, absolutely brilliant," Wilder said. "He even got them into the Europa League."
United enter the match on the back of a draw against West Ham, having beaten Arsenal at home five days earlier.
"It's still a work in progress and we've still got a lot of work to do to stay in the division," Wilder added. "There's still a long way to go, feet on the ground. The boys have made a good start but it's only a start. Their challenge is to be consistent in their performances and their attitude, which they have been."