Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder makes a big admission about the battle for Premier League survival
Chris Wilder has admitted Sheffield United are in a “dog fight” for Premier League survival after making a disappointing start to the new season, but reminded critics of his team that half of the division’s other 20 clubs are in the same situation.
United travel to fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion tomorrow night having taken only a point from their first nine matches of the new campaign; a run which has left them at the foot of the rankings despite finishing ninth last term.
Speaking ahead of a match against opponents also without a win since competition resumed in September, Wilder told United’s detractors his squad’s rapid rise through the divisions meant it was inevitable they would eventually find themselves in this position after being promoted less than two years ago.
“Cards on the table, before a ball had even been kicked, would we have taken 17th (position at the end of the season)? We set targets last year, yes, but realistically we are in a dog fight and we probably should be in a dog fight when you consider the big picture,” Wilder said. “To be honest, there’s 10 clubs in this division who would take 17thy place right now and move on to the next season. A lot of owners and managers might not admit it publicly, because they think it sends out the wrong message, although I know mine wouldn’t hide from it because they are realistic and sensible people.”
“Pressure does mount, yes, but we understand that,” Wilder, who inherited a side in League One when he was appointed in 2016, added. “We know we won’t come through this without criticism or the players or me for that matter. But we can come through it. We are basically a newly promoted team and we are in the fight, with plenty of fire in our bellies.”
Wilder used West Brom’s recent struggles to highlight the scale of the challenge United face as they look to establish themselves at the highest level. Fulham who like Slaven Bilic’s side climbed out of the Championship earlier this year, are also in the relegation zone approaching the festive period.
Despite their poor form, Wilder is adamant United’s recent results do not reflect the calibre of their performances after pushing both Liverpool and Manchester City close of late. Lys Mousset could make his long-awaited return from injury in the Midlands, while John Fleck is also set to feature after confirming his fitness against West Ham last weekend.
“West Brom have spent a good 10 or 12 years out of 16 in the Premier League, and gained all of the advantages that brings,” Wilder said. “The same as Fulham. Look at (Jake) Livermore, (Kyle) Bartley - they (West Brom) are a Premier League club that dropped out and got back into the Premier League.
“They’ve had some positive performances, just as much as we have. I think if we’d have walked away from Liverpool and City with results, they would have been deserved. Slav will be saying the same about Manchester United and Spurs.”