Revealed: Why Sheffield United trained at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United’s decision to hold a training session at Bramall Lane rather than the Steelphalt Academy complex formed part of a strategy Chris Wilder has devised to try and ensure his players are mentally prepared for the challenge of competing behind closed doors.
Although Premier League football is set to return on June 17 - when United travel to Aston Villa for a match of huge significance at both ends of the table - social distancing measures introduced following the Covid-19 pandemic mean supporters are still prohibited from entering stadia.
After taking part in the latest round of the Premier League screening programme designed to curb the virus’ spread through top-flight clubs, United’s squad were summoned to a work out at their home ground on Thursday.
With Wilder frequently acknowledging the role United’s fans performed during his team’s climb to within five points of the Champions League places before the season was mothballed in March, the United manager and his coaching staff viewed the exercise as an important part of their schedule ahead of the meeting with Dean Smith’s side. It is likely to be repeated again before United make the journey to the West Midlands, where they will encounter opponents fighting for survival after also being promoted last term.
Steve Sylvester, one of the country’s leading psychologists, told The Star last month that United must discover ways of maintaining a relationship with their followers during the remaining 10 league games of the campaign in order to enhance their prospects of qualifying for Europe.
The former professional cricketer is known to enjoy an excellent professional relationship with Wilder, and advised United on several occasions during their march out of the second tier.
“How can we represent the community? That’s one of the things they need to be asking themselves,” Sylvester said. “What can we do to help a community that has suffered a lot through this crisis? Even though many of them are not actually going to be in there (the ground) with us.”
“Believe it or not, there will be stresses associated with playing inside empty stadiums,” Sylvester added. “Responding to those in the right way is going to be crucial. The same as showing attention to detail, which is something Chris and his team always do.”
United’s decision to combine sessions at their usual training complex with one at Bramall Lane confirm Wilder has taken Sylvester’s advice on board, as his charges look to overhaul Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester United and fourth-placed Chelsea, whilst maintaining their interest in the FA Cup - where they will face Arsenal at the quarter-final stage later this month.
United are also expected to take part in at least two friendlies against neighbouring clubs from the Championship, before travelling to Villa. PL rules state these can only take place between teams within a 90 minute radius, with players forced to travel in their own vehicles and change at home. The use of match officials is also banned.