Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder makes an admission as he issues his latest directive to under-fire players

Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has urged his players to embrace their status as underdogs in the battle for Premier League survival after admitting he derives a “perverse sort of pleasure” from being written-off by critics and fellow professionals alike.

Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 6:00 am

Having taken only a point from their opening 10 matches of the new campaign following last weekend’s defeat by fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion, United are preparing for Sunday’s game against Leicester City at the foot of the table and being told to prepare for a return to the Championship.

Although Wilder acknowledges the picture will look bleak unless United are able to establish a foothold in the division before Christmas, he predicted the doom-laden narrative which has built up around his squad can help them rediscover the type of form which saw them challenge for a place in Europe before finishing ninth last term.

Reminding how United have consistently overcome the odds during their climb from the third to the first tier of English football following his appointment four years ago - and highlighting how many of those responsible for orchestrating that rise started their careers in the lower leagues - Wilder said: “In a perverse sort of way, I quite enjoy times like this because I enjoy the fight. I enjoy proving people they’re wrong when they start writing my lads off for whatever reason. I take a perverse sort of pleasure from it.

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Lys Mousett and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re not enjoying the situation we’re in, though.”

United were plunged into even deeper trouble when Fulham, who have also been tipped for relegation, recorded a shock victory over Brendan Rodgers’ side on Monday night. City’s preparations for their visit to South Yorkshire have been complicated by the fact they face FC Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine in the Europa League this evening. The match is being staged in the city of Zaporizhzia, in the south-east of the country, because of unrest in the region.

Wilder, who hopes to have both Enda Stevens and Ethan Ampadu at his disposal after they missed the trip to The Hawthorns though injury, said: “There’s still a lot of games to go but we’re realistic and we know that if we don’t pick up points pretty quickly then it’s going to be difficult.”

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