Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder reveals the findings of an internal review into his team's fitness issues
All of the major injuries suffered by Sheffield United players this season have been the result of challenges or collisions, manager Chris Wilder has claimed, after denying a notoriously demanding training regime could be responsible for the catalogue of fitness issues he believes have contributed to the club’s poor start to the Premier League campaign.
After enjoying a relatively trouble free campaign last term, as his squad finished ninth in the table after being promoted from the Championship, Wilder has been unable to select his first choice starting eleven in 80 percent of United’s outings since returning to action in September.
Insisting that must be considered when judging their results ahead of Sunday’s home game against Leicester City - United have lost nine and drawn one of their 10 outings so far - Wilder absolved coaching staff and conditioners working at the Steelphalt Academy training complex of any responsibility for a situation he admits has “caused real difficulty” of late.
“We’ve done a review of everything we do, as you would expect, but because they have all been ‘impact’ injuries, it’s hard to see what we can change,” he said. “Really, and I know people sometimes don’t want to hear this, but it does just seem to be down to luck.
“If we were picking up all sorts of strains and pulls, then obviously you’d have to say something different. Then, we’d have to say the problem was probably coming ‘in house’ as it were, and that there were things we’d have to alter.
“But that’s not how it is at all. The lads are always in good shape, physically. In fact we pride ourselves on the fitness side of things. But I don’t see what we can do about concussions and cuts, for example, because it’s a contact sport and we have to be competitive.”
Preventing him from naming the settled line-up which would help United plot a course away from the bottom of the table, Wilder’s frustration has been intensified by the fact that some of Bramall Lane’s most influential players have found themselves on the casualty list of late; with Enda Stevens (leg) a doubt for City’s visit and Jack O’Connell (knee) definitely ruled out.
Ethan Ampadu, signed on loan from Chelsea, is also undergoing treatment for a hip complaint. Both he and Stevens sat out last weekend’s trip to West Bromwich Albion, which saw United succumb to Conor Gallagher’s first-half goal.
“We managed to avoid anything serious last season and, undoubtedly, that helped us to do as well as we did,” Wilder said. “It seems at times now like we’re getting two season’s worth (of injuries) squeezed into one spell, but I don’t see there’s anything else we can do other than ride it out.”
"Obviously we’ve got to try and few things but, at the same time, it would be nice to be able to get a little bit more consistency which we think would help,” he added. “But it’s been verey difficult to do that of late.”