Sheffield United boss opens up on biggest Blades concern that's impacted Premier League survival bid

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Chris Wilder reveals medium to long-term wish for Sheffield United amid issue that has damaged survival bid

Chris Wilder has admitted that Sheffield United need to improve the fitness levels of their squad going forward after growing increasingly frustrated with player availability since returning to Bramall Lane in December. The Blades were minutes away from a morale-boosting win away at Bournemouth on Saturday before a late equaliser saw them make the long journey back north with just a point.

United were in command of the game at 2-0 ahead with Oli McBurnie and Ben Brereton Diaz forming a promising partnership up front, but McBurnie could only last 69 minutes on his return from injury and Brereton Diaz's wait for a 90-minute display went on as he made way with 10 minutes to go after his recent absence with a hamstring issue. Without the defensive capabilities of McBurnie United conceded from two balls into the box and couldn't retain their foothold in the game when raw youngster Will Osula was introduced off the bench, with senior forwards Rhian Brewster and Cameron Archer both missing with injury.

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Jayden Bogle and Anel Ahmedhodzic were also restricted in the minutes they could play while ordinarily George Baldock would not have been expected to play the full game plus lengthy injury time on his first start of the year after his recent injury absence. Fitness has been a common theme in recent months, with Wilder admitting he is being forced to make "physical substitutions" rather than for tactical reasons, and the manager admitted that not even the current three-week international break will be enough to rapidly improve things on that front.

"You basically can’t do anything during the season," Wilder admitted. "It’s virtually impossible. The players are where they are now and you don’t get enough time, especially after a Premier League game. It’s no good us now running the nuts off the players on Monday morning, to try and get more into them, in March. So it’s something we have to look at and modify and adjust and try and get through but it’s something we have to be better at as a football club in the medium and long term.

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"It’s not all about luck, there is a reason behind it. I could talk all day about the moving parts but it’s something we have to get right. In terms of continuity, working as a unit and working on systems. 'He’s available, he can’t train today, he needs a recovery day, he’s out for two weeks.' It’s continually getting chucked at you.

"Even to the extent of Jayden’s wife giving birth so he didn't train with us. I get that, he has to do what he has to do, but certain bits like that you have to deal with. Baldock coming in, Oli Arblaster playing his first game, Tom Davies coming back in. McBurnie, Anel, Brereton Diaz. There are six or seven players you’re continually looking at in a match day XI or 18 from a fitness point of view."

United are next in action on March 30, at home to Fulham, after this weekend's scheduled trip to Manchester United was postponed owing to their progress in the FA Cup.

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