Sheffield United’s Premier League dream rests on January recruitment

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder
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Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has suggested his club’s business during this month’s transfer window will decide whether they sustain a promotion challenge or miss the opportunity to reach the Premier League next term.

Wilder, whose side return to action at Derby County this afternoon, claimed their defeat by Bolton Wanderers had exposed the deficiencies of a squad which, despite being constructed on a relative shoe-string, enters today’s match sixth in the division.

But the 50-year-old, who last week expressed frustration at the slow progress of a deal for Southend’s Ryan Leonard, admitted United must strengthen or risk falling behind the division’s other leading teams.

“I believe, if we carry on the way we are, we might sustain our position,” Wilder said. “If we improve, we might improve our position.

“But if we stay the same or we drop, we’ll have a situation that’s happened over the last four or five games.”

United have now taken only five points from their last seven outings after succumbing to Gary Madine’s first-half strike.

With the likes of Wolves, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa all expected to spend heavily over the coming four week, Wilder wants to bolster the options at his disposal by bringing Leonard to Bramall Lane before completing at least two loan deals with top-flight clubs.

However, with officials at Roots Hall so far refusing to accept United’s undisclosed offer for the midfielder, Wilder is now faced with the possibility of being forced to identify alternative targets who comply with his budget.

“Really, it’s a massive missed opportunity for us,” he said. “I look at all the games we’ve played at home, our performances have been eight, sevens and a few nines out of 10. But we have to marry those up with the correct result. We didn’t do that against Bristol City, Birmingham and also Norwich. We were in the ascendancy in all of those. And for me, that’s dropped points from our inability to put teams to bed. We’ve been in the ascendancy at home and we’ve not put the opposition away.”