Online abuse, Jamie Vardy and Europe - SIX talking points from Chris Wilder's press conference ahead of Sheffield United v Leicester City

Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, faced the media this morning ahead of Thursday's clash with Leicester.

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 2:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 2:28 pm
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP)

With so much on the agenda at Bramall Lane, we looked at SIX talking points from Wilder's press conference.

Stamp it out

Wilder spoke eloquently and passionately on the subject of online abuse, which is something he has first-hand experience of, when asked about the disgusting racist message sent to striker David McGoldrick over the weekend. The United manager teased his opinion about what he would like to see happen to those who abuse others online - but, perhaps wisely, stopped short of telling the media exactly what it would entail - and called on social media platforms to do more to stamp it out. McGoldrick, Wilder said, has the full support of his manager, his teammates and his club, and the outpouring of anger from supporters shows how highly thought of the striker is at United. "He's an intelligent guy, a fabulous footballer and most importantly a great human being," Wilder said. "He'll understand it but it still doesn't make it right and he has our full support."

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A lot of respect for Leicester

It seems an eternity ago now when the Blades and the Foxes met in the Bramall Lane sunshine last year, in just United's second home game back in the Premier League. Leicester took three points that day after what Wilder again here called 'three moments of magic' - James Maddison's through-ball and Jamie Vardy's finish for their first goal, and then a stunning volley from Harvey Barnes to win the game. City are a team that Wilder clearly has a lot of respect for, along with manager Brendan Rodgers and, whisper it quietly, striker Vardy - a Wednesday fan who famously bounced back from being released by the Owls as a youngster to work his way back up the pyramid and become an England international, and a Premier League winner.

Sound familiar?

Wilder himself is not a Premier League winner or England manager - not yet, anyway - but there are striking similarities between his managerial career, and Vardy's story so far. Both have represented, and then left, the club they love as players and for Vardy's rise through non-league with Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax Town and Conference side Fleetwood, read Wilder's time at Alfreton Town, Halifax and then Oxford in the Conference. Both have overcome struggle and hardship in their careers to work their way up to the Premier League, and nothing has been handed to them. On Thursday, they will meet as equals, with Wilder's United just five points behind Vardy's Leicester. Both could be in Europe next season and if Vardy's story has been described as 'rags to riches' in the past, Wilder's isn't far behind.

Still no talk about Europe

Which, to be fair, is expected. Wilder has neglected to talk about it in depth - publically, at least - and, with three games of the season remaining, is hardly likely to change tack now. But the league table doesn't lie and if the season ended tomorrow - providing Arsenal don't win the FA Cup - the Blades would be in the Europa League. They are a point behind sixth-placed Wolves and must finish in that spot if they don't want to leave anything to chance. No other team in this club's long history has ever qualified for European competition, and the class of 2020 would further seal their place in folklore if they can do so. "For a newly-promoted side to be in our position, and get to magical 40 points with about 10 games left, is a great achievement," Wilder said. "But I want more out of the season, and so do the players."

No such thing as 'nothing to play for'

Although Leicester are desperate for points to maintain their grisp on the last Champions League spot, United's final two games of the season are against Everton and Southampton - who need something bordering on a football miracle to have any chance of finishing seventh. But, Wilder warned today, that does not make United's games against them a formality. Southampton, remember, toppled Manchester City earlier this month and scored a 96th-minute equaliser against Manchester United yesterday. "Even teams with nothing to play for have professional pride," Wilder said. "You don't play and manage in the Premier League without having that. Everyone has something to play for... that's what makes it so exciting going into the last three games."

Another welcome injury conundrum

Wilder revealed that John Fleck has a chance of being fit for Thursday's clash, if he comes through a number of scheduled clearance sessions between now and kick-off at the King Power Stadium. That would represent a huge boost for the Blades going into the mini-run of three games that will define their season. Yet - and, as someone often teased for being the founder member of the John Fleck Fan Club, I can't quite believe I am writing these words - would he be an automatic starter? I think it's fair to at least say that the decision is not quite as clear as it would have been earlier in the season. Fleck is an unbelievable player and offers United so much but in his absence, Ben Osborn has excelled. His energy levels in midfield are remarkable and it must be such a welcome position for Wilder to have such a difficult decision to make.

An important message: Thank you for reading this story. The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on our advertisers and thus our revenues. The Star is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. You can subscribe here for unlimited access to Sheffield news and information online. Every subscription helps us continue providing trusted, local journalism and campaign on your behalf for our city. Thank you, and stay safe. Danny.