Sheffield Derby: James Shield’s Sheffield United Column explains why Sheffield Wednesday should be viewed as favourites to win this game

The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield

Some will dismiss it as absolutely deluded. Others, particularly those of a blue and white persuasion, a shameless attempt to pile pressure on their team.

But sober analysis suggests Chris Wilder is right to insist Sheffield Wednesday, not Sheffield United, enter tonight's derby as favourites. Whatever the Championship rankings suggest.

Third in the table, 10 points and 14 places above their rivals from Hillsborough, Wilder's team are undoubtedly in better form. Like Jos Luhukay's side, United were beaten last weekend although, on the road at Nottingham Forest, the psychological damage was far less acute than being thumped by Norwich City at home.

And yet, despite seemingly compelling evidence to the contrary, the fixture should remain Wednesday's to lose. Why? Because, as the sport's brightest and sharpest brains will tell you, a squad's true performance should be judged over a three season cycle. In 2015, as their neighbours gleefully reminded them, United were still languishing in the third tier. Otherwise known as the Pub League.

Using this measure, which is generally accepted as being the most accurate guage of footballing achievement, the difference between the two clubs is stark. In terms of experience - Wednesday's two Championship play-off campaigns trump United's League One title - and particularly the financial resources at their respective disposal.
Although exact figures are difficult to come by, thanks in no small part to the deliberate obfuscation which now seems accepted practice in the game, it is still possible to crunch some numbers and take a broad view.

Wednesday have lavished an estimated £25m on new arrivals over the past three summers. Admittedly, they were under under an embargo for long periods of the last one but, it must be remembered, this was imposed because those fees, and the wage bill which resulted, broke Profit and Sustainability regulations. 

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes the odds are still stacked in Sheffield Wednesday's favour

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes the odds are still stacked in Sheffield Wednesday's favour

That total figures translates to roughly double the amount United have spent since Wilder's appointment two years ago. In the interests of fairness, it should be pointed out that Luhukay has been denied an opportunity to stamp his imprint indelibly on Wednesday.

However, by exactly the same token, one must also acknowledge the Dutchman has not really been forced to trade. It is not a luxury Wilder, thanks to Bramall Lane's budgetary constraints, was afforded when Lee Evans and Ryan Leonard were both sacrificed to make room for fresh signings before the August deadline.

One of Wednesday's purchases, former Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes, cost over two thirds of Wilder's total outlay. The fact he is now on loan at Carrow Road is, according to the above measure, neither here nor there.

Of course, football matches are decided by character, skill and calibre rather than cheque books. United's confidence should certainly be higher than Wednesday's but clear cut favourites? Not unless you want to twist the facts and ignore the sums involved.

But Sheffield United, he insists, still believe they can win the game: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

But Sheffield United, he insists, still believe they can win the game: Simon Bellis/Sportimage