Chris Wilder has insisted Sheffield United’s players, not the club’s coaching staff, should take credit for its recent run of form.
United, unbeaten in their last nine League One outings, enter Saturday’s derby against Bradford City only four points behind leaders Scunthorpe after beating Shrewsbury Town 3-0 earlier this week.
Although Wilder’s decision to change tactics and formation have been instrumental in reviving the team’s fortunes following a chequered start to the season, he said: “Managers and coaches are there to set it up. But players determine how it goes. I said to them before Shrewsbury ‘You determine how this one goes. If you show your ability but more importantly the desire to win a game of football, then you give yourselves a great opportunity.’ Credit to the lads because they did show that desire.”
Wilder, who won promotion with both Oxford and Northampton Town before taking charge of United in May, likes to paint himself as a footballing traditionalist by emphasising the importance of discipline and hard work.
But appearances can be deceptive and his methods are more subtle than they might appear. Indeed, even the 49-year-old’s claim that his team are responsible for propelling United up the table could be interpreted as a psychological ploy. Although Wilder’s squad know he is ready to publicly acknowledge hard work, it also sends a message they will not be protected if complacency causes things to go awry.
“Before the game (with Shrewsbury) showed me why we have got it going,” Wilder said. “Jake Wright, Ethan (Ebanks-Landell) and Bash (Chris Basham) were loud. The same at half-time when people got themselves geed-up again.”
“We don’t take anything for granted because we had to work extremely hard again,” he added. “I thought it was pretty much one way traffic after our first goal.”
Confirming Jack O’Connell should be available for the visit to Valley Parade - “He was taken ill during afternoon and so we sent him back home” - Wilder cited Mark Duffy’s performance at Greenhous Meadow as the type of selfless shift United’s players must produce to challenge for promotion.
“Mark was man-marked yet again,” he said. “So, in fairness to the lad, it was probably a bit of a nightmare for him because he had to run and run in order to create space for everybody else.”