Sir Alex Ferguson once famously took exception when, as a member of Scotland’s coaching staff, Kenny Dalglish and Alan Hansen refused to discuss their Liverpool team mate Ian Rush before a crucial match against Wales.
Fortunately for Sheffield United, Jake Wright did not swear an oath of omerta ahead of last weekend’s meeting with Oxford as the centre-half, who spent nearly seven years with the visitors before joining Chris Wilder’s side during the close season, revealed afterwards.
“I know their starting eleven inside out,” Wright explained. “So the gaffer used me a lot beforehand, asking about the staff, their set-pieces and stuff like that. You have to do it. Flecky (John Fleck) knows a lot about Coventry and he’ll do the same when we play them. Just like Willo (James Wilson) when we face Oldham.”
Wright impressed on his debut for United as goals from Billy Sharp and Wilson helped them secure their first win of the new League One campaign. Although the information he provided doubtless proved useful, Saturday’s result was all about industry and endeavour, not espionage, as Wilder’s players dragged themselves off the canvas following Kane Hemmings’ early strike.
“I was there six and a half years so I’m close to a lot of those lads,” Wright continued. “But when you cross the white line you want to smash them and beat them. I’ve got some really good friends at Oxford, people I will speak to for the rest of my life. There were friends and family in the stands today who are Oxford fans as well but this is business.”
United entered the match having taken just a point from their opening four games of the competition. Wright, one of two changes Wilder made to the starting eleven beaten at Millwall seven days earlier, described the past three weeks as a mentally gruelling but potentially positive experience.
“It’s easy walking about happy when you are winning games,” he said. “It shows true character to stick your chest out when you are losing and stick together. Stick together through the tough times. We’ve done that all week and not just the 11 or the 14 who played.
“I thought we were unlucky to go in 1-0 down,” he added. “But we kept going and showed a lot of bottle.”