Sheffield United: Blades learn from rugby

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BORN and bred in the rugby league mad town of Wigan, little wonder that Danny Wilson likes to keep abreast of events in the 13 man code, writes James Shield.

Few of Sheffield United’s first team squad share his obsession but the South Yorkshire club’s manager told The Star last night there is still plenty they can learn from their Super League counterparts.

Focused: Sheffield United striker Dave Kitson celebrates his goal at Oldham Athletic

Focused: Sheffield United striker Dave Kitson celebrates his goal at Oldham Athletic

“The actual cauldron of battle is very different,” Wilson said. “But in terms of other aspects, in the way the rugby league lads conduct themselves, football could do with taking note.

“It’s a tough business. They go at each other hammer and tong but the discipline they show is remarkable. It’s the same in rugby union too.

“Both of those sports have probably looked at what we do in our game and picked things up. Especially when it comes to recovery techniques and the professionalism surrounding how we prepare for matches. Things like that.

“But the rugby lads never, or very rarely, show any dissent towards the officials. And that’s very good to see.”

Wilson’s message is particularly pertinent given the ferocious nature of this season’s League One promotion race.

With only seven points separating its leading six teams ahead of yesterday’s fixtures, the former Northern Ireland international, whose side must play five games in the final 15 days of the season following the postponement of last night’s visit to Crewe Alexandra, will not want to see his selections further complicated by unnecessary suspensions.

Tony McMahon, a member of a United defence which has not conceded a goal in six outings, is one caution away from an automatic ban.

Likewise influential midfielder Kevin McDonald following his caution at Oldham Athletic earlier this month.

United, though, have collected fewer yellow cards than three of their rivals towards the top of the rankings.

Brentford entered their meeting with Swindon Town yesterday on exactly the same number (52) according to the competition’s statisticians.

“I’ve got to say that I think my lads have been brilliant in this regard,” Wilson continued. “And we have to make sure that continues.

“They’ve had some pretty poor decisions go against them recently. But, despite that provocation, they’ve kept their cool and their focus.

“They’ve behaved themselves in a professional manner and that’s been great to see.

“It’s also been very important because it makes our jobs that little bit easier.

“That’s where the experience comes in,” he added. “It can make a big, big difference especially at this time of the season.

“Keeping your focus and keeping your concentration is vital because you can’t afford to become distracted.

“We’ve got lads in our dressing room who have been around in the game for a long time and they set a good example.

“They know what the score is and how you’ve got to behave.

“The only thing we are focusing on is ourselves. The things we can control.

“There’s nothing to be gained from looking at anyone else because we can’t affect that.

“But we can influence what we do ourselves.”

Despite that, Wilson planned to travel to either Griffin Park or the Bescot Stadium, where Walsall hosted Tranmere Rovers, last night after the playing surface at Gresty Road was deemed “unsafe” due to the freezing conditions.

The fixture has now been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 23 (kick-off 7.45pm), sandwiched in between United’s trip to Portsmouth and their final match of the campaign against Preston.

*Twitter: JamesShield1