Sheffield United: Putting effort in with Blades’ fringe players is key for promotion, says Chris Wilder

Ben Whiteman of Sheffield Utd. Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Ben Whiteman of Sheffield Utd. Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Chris Wilder has spent the past four weeks being asked about others clubs players but, until the transfer window reopens in a fortnight’s time, he is more bothered about the ones Sheffield United have already got.

Especially, it emerged earlier this month, those on the periphery of Bramall Lane’s first team squad.

Louis Reed of Sheffield Utd tackled by Marcin Wasilewski of Leicester City U23.

Louis Reed of Sheffield Utd tackled by Marcin Wasilewski of Leicester City U23.

Some observers might be surprised the likes of Reece Brown, Ben Whiteman and Louis Reed take up more of the manager’s time than, say, Billy Sharp or John Fleck.

But Wilder explained why, according to his way of thinking at least, coaches who focus purely on the club’s starting eleven are missing an important psychological trick.

“I’ve always thought if you are in the team, things take care of themselves,” Wilder said.

“You know the manager has got trust in you. But I’m a big believer that it’s the ones who aren’t in there at any given moment in time that you have to look after. So, quite often, my efforts are directed at them.

Byron Webster is a Blades target

Byron Webster is a Blades target

“They are just as important. I told them the other day, the lads who aren’t out there on a regular basis, ‘don’t forget how important you are. Never underestimate that.’

“When teams go up, people don’t look at it and say ‘he played all 46 games, he played 40 and he played 30’ or whatever.

“They just see you were a team that got promoted which, it goes without saying, is what we are trying to do here.”

United are well-placed to achieve Wilder’s objective after climbing to second in the League One table - level on points with leaders Scunthorpe - after beating Coventry City on Thursday evening.

Although they finished three behind Graham Alexander’s side following Saturday’s round of games, last week’s win at the Ricoh Arena, which saw Whiteman summoned from the bench during the closing stages, prompted Wilder to admit: “You have to find different ways to win.

“And, by and large, I think we’ve done that. At Coventry, we were the architechts of our own downfall in terms of letting them back in the game. But, without being biased, I thought we did well and responded well when that happened.”

“It’s not all about being lovely to watch all the time,” he continued.

“It was a difficult night, it was a stop start game and the pitch was poor. But there are no excuses, we should have adjusted our game sooner. However, the lads are giving everything for this football club and to show that desire, that belief to keep on going right until the end and come through was really good to see.

“I don’t think you can do that unless you’re a tight knit group which is one of the things we’ve worked hard to create here.”

United return to action when Oldham Athletic visit Bramall Lane on Boxing Day before playing host to Northampton Town five days later. Wilder, who granted his players some time off following the meeting with City, insisted spending time away from the training complex will help recharge their batteries.

But, having outlined plans to make “maybe one or two” acquisitions next month, coaching staff spent the weekend assessing potential targets.

“Perhaps one of the things people who don’t work in football understand is that it’s a constant process,” Wilder said.

“We look at players all the time, it doesn’t just start a few weeks before the window. We, and every other club for that matter, are constantly keeping abreast of who is out there and who might be available.

“That never stops but it doesn’t mean you are any less focused on the games themselves. It’s just part and parcel of the job.”

With Wolverhampton Wanderers yet to officially confirm whether or not Ethan Ebanks-Landell will be recalled to Molineux midway through his season long loan, Millwall centre-half Byron Webster is one of the players United are known to have been monitoring since August’s deadline for permanent signings.

James Wilson’s return from injury has made Wilder’s need for defensive reinforcements less acute with the 49-year-old, speaking earlier this week, insisting a major overhaul of the options at his disposal could prove counterproductive.

“If I’ve got good characters in the changing room, who know what I want, then they don’t have to listen to the same voice over and over again.

“That’s mine. Obviously there are times when you have to step in and solve problems. But if they are all pulling in the right direction and want the same things, then that’s great for me.”

United, who expect Scougall to return for their clash with Oldham in seven days time, complete their Christmas fixture schedule with a trip to Bury on January 2.

Chris Brass was recently unveiled as the Lancashire club’s manager after taking charge on an interim basis earlier this term.

“Everybody has got to be ready to step in, especially at this stage of the season when there’s a quick turnaround at times,” Wilder said.

“Everybody has got really important contributions to make, either coming in and looking to make a place their own or, even if they are not involved for a match or two, helping the lads who are prepare properly and get ready for what are going to be some very difficult games.

“The group is always the most important thing, it’s much bigger than any individual player or member of staff. That’s something everybody must buy into.”