Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder addresses 'the facts' about his team

It wasn’t quite up there with Rafael Benitez’s ‘facts’ press conference.

Friday, 22nd January 2021, 5:30 pm

The tone was different. The same goes, because he was attempting to defend a group of players rather than question the motives of a rival manager, for the purpose. But when Chris Wilder settled down in front of the cameras broadcasting his latest media briefing via Zoom, he produced a sheet of paper from his pocket, carefully unfolded it and then, through a series of carefully crafted prompts, invited journalists on the call to enquire about the contents.

“More tackles, more successful tackles, more aerial duels, more distance covered and sprinting distances, well, they were the fourth highest of the season,” Wilder told The Star, explaining why, a couple of minutes earlier, he claimed last weekend’s meeting with Tottenham Hotspur hadn’t been “quite as one-sided” as the some of the post-match coverage might suggest. “It wasn’t the result we wanted and there were things we could have done better. Listen, I get that Jose (Mourinho) will turn round and say they topped the only stat that matters and he’s right. But what I’m trying to say is that, looking back on the game, there were some good things in it too. And that I’ve got the figures in front of me to back it up, even though I shouldn’t really have to use them.”

Ostensibly designed to discuss tomorrow afternoon’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Plymouth Argyle, Wilder could be forgiven for using today’s question and answer session with reporters to highlight some of the good things his Sheffield United side have been doing in recent weeks. After all, after slipping even deeper into trouble following the latest round of Premier League fixtures, they have spent most of the past four months listening to people telling them where they are going wrong.

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Chris Wilder has jumped to the defence of his Sheffield United players: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

Although Wilder privately acknowledges that a team 12 points adrift of safety and at the bottom of the table clearly has its faults, including a worrying tendency to shoot itself in the foot, he is also convinced his side’s performances since last season’s ninth placed finish have not always been rewarded with the deserved result. Hence, with confidence in short supply behind the scenes at Bramall Lane, the reminder that the 3-1 defeat by a Spurs team boasting the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min came following wins over Newcastle and Bristol Rovers; the latter, United’s first of the campaign, setting-up the meeting with the visitors from Devon.

“You saw how we took that win (at Rovers) on into the next game,” Wilder said. “There’s all sorts of nonsense spoken, as Jose himself mentioned, about systems and shape. It’s simple - play well, and bring your mate to the party with you. That’s what we’ll be looking to do again, because it’s not about priorities. It’s about winning a game of football. And there’s never a bad game to win, be it in the Premier League, the FA Cup or even a kick-about in the park with your mates.

“If we show the same qualities, then we put ourselves in a position to win. All in all, although it ended on a disappointing note, I thought we had a good week up to Spurs. Now we want to start another one.”

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Chris Wilder is preparing his team to face Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Chris Wilder during the FA Cup third round win over Bristol Rovers: Darren Staples/Sportimage