Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has told the rest of the Championship to write-off his team at their peril ahead of Saturday’s Yorkshire derby against Leeds.
Wilder’s side have slipped from first to eighth in the table after averaging only a point per game since October’s 2-1 victory at Elland Road.
But Wilder, who is waiting to discover if Jamal Blackman will be declared fit for the meeting with Paul Heckingbottom’s side, believes doubts about their top six credentials will prove a response from United’s players.
“If people want to write us off, which I’m sure they are doing, then that’s up to them,” he said. “If they want to say that’s us done, they can do that if they want. It’s fine by me. But I know the spirit that’s in this group and I know they can go again. I know better than anyone the character of these boys.”
Goalkeeper Simon Moore will miss the lunchtime encounter after being sent-off towards the end of last weekend’s defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers. His absence means Jake Eastwood is in line to make his full league debut for the club although Blackman, on loan from Chelsea, returned to training with his parent club yesterday. The 24-year-old is recovering from a groin injury sustained during training ahead of last month’s victory over Norwich City but has been pictured completing a gruelling work-out at the Premier League club’s training complex in Cobham, Surrey.
“We have to get over it (the run) quickly and set ourselves up for a grandstand finish,” Wilder said. “Because were still in the fight and it’s still all to play for. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the character of our group, in fact I know there isn’t because they prove it every single day.”
“This game against Leeds takes care of itself,” he added. “We’ll have a full house and the support from up the road is going to be a sell-out too. These are the type of matches everyone wants to be involved in and I know the lads are going to be up for it as they and the fans always are.”