Sheffield United prepare to send their "streetfighters" into action against Southampton
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has insisted his team of “street fighters” will refuse to give up on their dream of Premier League survival, despite admitting the odds are stacked against them in the battle to avoid relegation.
Despite entering this weekend’s game against Southampton on the back of a win over Aston Villa, United remain cut adrift at the bottom of the table with only 11 matches remaining.
But after watching them survive Phil Jagielka’s sending-off early in the second-half to record only their third clean sheet since September, Wilder felt compelled to praise the courage his players had displayed during the meeting with Dean Smith’s side.
Claiming their willingness to “put their bodies on the line and shuck themselves in the way of anything” provided an insight into how United will approach the rest of the campaign, he said: “These lads are streetfighters. You can see it in their eyes. I see it every time I look at them, no matter what the result. Even the ones who aren’t out there on the pitch, they all have that same look and that makes me even more proud of them.”
“You can’t teach what they showed (against Villa) and you can’t coach it,” Wilder continued. “You’ve either got it in you or you haven’t, and those boys have. That’s why they’ll keep on going, no matter what, and I think that’s a brilliant quality.
“Football isn’t always about systems or whatever. It’s not always about playing between the lines or whatever people like to talk about these days. Sometimes it comes down to bottle.”
Despite acknowledging “strong wills” are required between now and the end of the campaign, the visit of a Southampton side which risks being dragged into trouble itself following a slump in form is set to pose a test of United’s organisational skills and strategic thinking. With Jagielka suspended and John Egan, Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham ruled out by injury, Ethan Ampadu and Kean Bryan are the only centre-halves at Wilder’s disposal. United’s preferred 3-5-2 system demands they play with three.
“It’s a challenge but we’ll face up to it,” he said.