Sheffield United: ‘Seeing players represent their countries is bad for The Blades? Don’t talk nonsense.’

Ben Woodburn is away with Wales
Ben Woodburn is away with Wales

Tomorrow, if Ben Woodburn, John Egan and Enda Stevens all find themselves on the pitch when Wales face the Republic of Ireland in the inaugural UEFA Nations League, Chris Wilder will be a very proud man.

Two years ago, he inherited a club set to spend its sixth straight season in the footballing backwaters. Now, with one promotion and a play-off challenge under their belts, Sheffield United are third in the Championship and growing increasingly used to seeing players selected for international duty.

"I don't want to keep going back in time and harping on about the past," Wilder said. "We're trying to drive things forward.
"But sometimes I do think it's worth stopping for a moment and remembering where we were not so long ago compared to the position we're in now, with lads going away to represent their countries. It's great recognition for them and they deserve it. It's also great recognition for the club."

Although the Group B$ tie at Cardiff City Stadium will be of particular fascination - Woodburn could win his latest Welsh cap against an Ireland squad including his two Bramall Lane team mates - Wilder's staff must also keep abreast of events in Belfast, Bangor and Norfolk where others on United's roster could be in action.

New signings Conor Washington and Oliver Norwood are both expected to feature during Northern Ireland's opening fixture in the tournament, against Bosnia-Herzegovina at Windsor Park, and Tuesday's friendly with Israel 72 hours later.

Wales under-21's, coached by former United defender Robert Page, have called-up Rhys Norrington-Davies for their UEFA Championship qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Portugal while Dean Henderson is hoping to help England takes a step towards the finals when Holland visit Norwich tomorrow evening. Aidy Boothroyd's side then journey to Latvia next week.

Enda Stevens has been selected by the Republic of Ireland

Enda Stevens has been selected by the Republic of Ireland

With Stevens and Egan also scheduled to travel with Ireland to next week's meeting with Poland, United's preparations for September 15th's meeting with Bristol City could be complicated by late returns and injuries. But Wilder, despite acknowledging many of his colleagues breathe a sigh of relief when their players are overlooked, is adamant the rewards outweigh the risks.

"I'm going to be interested to see Ben, Enda and John potentially coming up against each other," he said, before appearing to question Scotland's refusal to select John Fleck. "It's the highest level of the game and so not only is it a great honour, it's also great for your development.

"It's brilliant for us to see them go. The obvious one isn't involved but I'm sure he's getting looked at. I'm not one who doesn't want to see lads go away. Quite the opposite in fact."

John Egan is also in Martin O'Neill's squad

John Egan is also in Martin O'Neill's squad

Chris Wilder is delighted with his players' progress

Chris Wilder is delighted with his players' progress