Sheffield United’s players can expect another public dressing down if they under-perform at Reading tonight, Chris Wilder has indicated, after insisting footballers are not beyond reproach.
Instead, highlighting the number times he has defended his team, the United manager expressed bemusement at suggestions professional sportspeople should be treated differently to those who spend their wages buying tickets for games.
Wilder, who told the club’s squad “it’s over to you” following Friday’s defeat by Hull City, said: “Welcome to the real world. I’m not saying their useless or they can’t do their job because they can and they have been. But it’s come to a point where I think it needed saying and if they prove me wrong then it will be brilliant. If they don’t, then that’s where we are.”
“I’m the biggest supporter of my players,” he added. “Go through all my interviews and tell me I’m not.
“People say you are in danger of losing the dressing room if you criticise the players. Rubbish. I’m not there to be their best mate. I’ve got my pals. In any other walk of life, if you don’t do your job or you do it poorly, you get questioned. If you do that here, you will get questioned and your place in the team will be questioned.
“I’ll defend them if I think people are harsh on them, as I have done before. But I won’t after that (Hull).”
Wilder claimed he “didn’t care” if United’s players responded during the immediate aftermath of their loss at the KCOM Stadium. Speaking at the club’s training complex today, he also explained why a favourable set of weekend results had done nothing to improve his mood. With Middlesbrough, Brentford, Preston North End and Bristol City all failing to win, United travel to Berkshire knowing victory will see them climb from eighth to sixth in the Championship with 12 matches remaining.
“If we had done the business, look at the position we would have been in then,” Wilder said. “There’s been good performances that have warranted more but not Friday. We deserved nothing. I spoke to Mitch (United’s head of player recruitment) and he told me he sees those games all the time.
“I’ve always had to overachieve. I’m not going to be sat in the corner at Reading and not saying a word. I won’t be like that at training. But maybe I need to take a backward step and maybe I need to dampen my expectations down a little bit. Nothing will change with my work rate. At the start of the season I was told 19th would be a good position for us, staying in the division.”
“I’m not going to have conversations about geeing players up again,” Wilder added. “It has to be player led and player driven. They talk about their team spirit, let’s see it. They talk about being good enough, let’s see it. They talk about being together. Let’s see it, me included.”