Sheffield United prepare to undergo a crash course in the dark arts of Premier League football
Sheffield United’s players are set to undergo a crash course in the methods some Premier League clubs employ to win “cheap” free kicks and influence match officials, after Chris Wilder admitted his team must become more streetwise in order to win its battle for survival.
Although most of those expected to start November 22nd’s game against West Ham are away on international duty, United’s coaching staff are expected to press ahead with the programme of drills and exercises during training next week - reasoning those who compete at the highest level are already well-versed in the tactics many of their top-flight counterparts already use to try and gain an advantage during games.
Speaking after watching United lose for the seventh time in eight outings when they were beaten by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Wilder admitted he faces a dilemma about how to approach the remainder of the campaign - insisting his side’s determination to respect both the letter and the spirit of the laws was going unrewarded.
Complaining defender Max Lowe had been deliberately “blocked off” before Thiago Silva scored the Londoners’ third goal during a 4-1 win, the United manager stressed he was not questioning the actions of Frank Lampard’s side or attributing the result to the referee’s failure to spot the offense.
But he did accept it could be “naive” to believe United can compete on a level playing field unless they become equally cunning.
With that in mind, and until he decides whether or not to instruct his squad to adopt a more devious approach, Wilder has begun devising a programme of training ground routines designed to try and prevent events during the build-up to Silva’s effort being repeated.
“We’ve seen some cheap things given against us, that’s not me moaning, it’s just how it is,” he said. “I don’t want to ask my lads to do some of the things we’re seeing, and I don’t want them to become comfortable or happy with doing them themselves either.
“We do need to be more aware of it though, of what’s happening. That’s something we’re going to have to look at because, all of us, we can’t be naive.”