Manager Chris Wilder gets into the minds of Sheffield United's players

Clearly it is far from ideal - an enforced three month break, coupled with a homespun training schedule, just when they were gaining serious momentum in the battle for European qualification.

Friday, 15th May 2020, 5:00 pm

Although Chris Wilder concedes the break in the fixture schedule came at a particularly inopportune moment for Sheffield United, he believes his squad, which had gone six unbeaten in all competition before coronavirus reached these shores, will not use it as an excuse for producing sub-par performances when football returns to action.

“Everyone needs to be ready to play their part and they are all working away,” the United manager said. “My players have climbed to the top of the mountain and they won’t all of a sudden think they’ve made it.

“We (the staff) know how they are and what they are thinking. We know where they are from a fitness point of view as well.”

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Despite making a partial return to training two weeks ago - only small groups of players are permitted at their Steelphalt Academy training complex - Wilder’s words suggests he believes the biggest challenges facing his players are likely to be mental rather than physical as the Premier League continues to explore the possibility of lifting its fixture suspension in mid-June.

Seventh in the table and only five points outside the Champions League places with a game in hand on fourth-placed Chelsea, United have given themselves a genuine chance of qualifying for next season’s tournament despite only being promoted last term.

Concentration, according to the 52-year-old, will be key. Not, given the expertise all elite level footballers now have access too, conditioning.

“It might take a game or two to get properly going again,” Wilder said, conceding United are likely to have lost some of their rhythm since sport went into lockdown. “But we’re all in the same boat, every single team, and that’s the way we should be looking at it.”

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says his players must be in the right frame of mind when Premier League football returns: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“The key,” he added, “Is just making sure you’re ready when you get called back. Everyone knows where they stand on that. So there’s no reason not to be ready, none at all.”

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