Sheffield United: Why stats and the run-in hold no interest for Blades boss Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder
Chris Wilder
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At some point over the weekend, with no match to prepare for or ponder following the postponement of his team’s fixture against Burton Albion, Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder will have sat down to study some facts and figures compiled by friends.

Printed on A4 paper and bound inside a plastic folio, they document the average number of points required to qualify for the Championship play-offs. Wilder appreciates the gesture but, as his team prepares for tomorrow’s trip to Fulham, reveals it was not worth their while.

“People throw all sorts of stats about, looking at what it takes to get in the play-offs, the number of points, the averages and all of that. I take a look when I get bored at home,” he said. “The target for me and the players is just to try and win the next game. That’s all we’re bothered about.”

If United can do exactly that, beating opponents regarded by many as the division’s most aesthetically-pleasing team, it would represent a major step towards achieving something most people thought was beyond them following last term’s League One title triumph.

But Wilder’s suspicions about the value of trying to predict results were confirmed earlier this month when, having seen his squad beaten by strugglers Hull City, fellow promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough, Bristol City and Brentford all failed to win.

“There’s a lot of pressure on teams around us,” he continued. “A lot of people have to get out of the division and a lot of people are fighting to stay in. Everybody is fighting for one reason or another, even if it’s just professional pride. They’re still scrapping and fighting. We want to achieve as well.”

Wilder has spent the past seven months talking up United’s status as the competition’s big underdogs.

The likes of Aston Villa, Derby County and Slaviša Jokanovic’s side might boast vastly superior budgets. But United, whose financial resources are tiny in comparison, possess mighty big hearts.

Although their top-six credentials were questioned following last month’s horror show at the KCOM Stadium, Wilder’s players responded with a 3-1 victory over Reading which, by Jaap Stam’s own admission, did not reflect their dominance.

United might have have been criticised for their failure to furnish Wilder with greater funds, but accounts recently published by Birmingham City and neighbours Sheffield Wednesday reveal the true cost of gambling on promotion. At St Andrews, where City’s parent company posted a loss of £17 million between June and December, supporters are concerned by the club’s dependence upon loans from their owners in the Far East. Closer to home, Wednesday confirmed their operating loss for the past year totalled just over £20m. Wages have risen by around £9m.

Victory for the Blades in their last outing, at Reading

Victory for the Blades in their last outing, at Reading

Wilder, who recently called for greater clarity regarding HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud attempt’s to become United’s sole owner, has distractions of his own. But, in the short term at least, he is able to focus largely on footballing matters rather than balance sheets.

It was intriguing, however, that one of his concerns seems to be discovering how much he will have to spend during the summer transfer window. Nowhere in his comments, made ahead of the clash with Nigel Adkins’ squad, did he explicitly demand more money.

“Regardless of what anybody says, we’ve had to turn this club around from a ridiculously poor position,” Wilder says. “But that’s not enough for me. I want to keep achieving. Where we are isn’t enough for me, for my drive and desire. Regardless of budgets and this that and the other, it requires the players to be on the same page as me. That’s the way I am. I’m not going to change.”

United face Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest after returning from London, while their meeting with Albion has yet to be rearranged. They are then scheduled to confront Brentford and Cardiff City over the Bank Holiday weekend before a Yorkshire derby with Barnsley.

Defeat at Hull City

Defeat at Hull City

“There’s a lot of evenly-matched clubs in this division,” Wilder said. “If you’re off it, you won’t win. If you’re on it, then you give yourselves an opportunity. One thing about this group is they always give themselves the opportunity to win a game of football. And you know what’s going to happen when that’s not the case.”


Sheffield United run-in:

March 6: Fulham (a)

March 10: Ipswich Town (a)

March 17: Nottingham Forest (h)

March 30: Brentford (a)

April 2: Cardiff City (h)

April 7: Barnsley (a)

April 10: Middlesbrough (h)

April 14: Millwall (h)

April 21: Birmingham City (a)

April 28: Preston North End (h)

May 6: Bristol City (a)

TBC: Burton Albion (h)

Bristol City:

March 6: Preston North End (a)

March 10: Burton Albion (a)

March 17: Ipswich Town (h)

March 30: Barnsley (a)

April 2: Brentford (h)

April 7: Millwall (a)

April 10: Birmingham City (h)

April 14: Middlesbrough (a)

April 21: Hull City (h)

April 28: Nottingham Forest (a)

May 6: Sheffield United (h)


March 6: Birmingham City (a)

March 10: Barnsley (h)

March 17: Brentford (a)

March 30: Wolves (h)

April 2: Burton Albion (a)

April 7: Nottingham Forest (h)

April 10: Sheffield United (a)

April 14: Bristol City (h)

April 21: Derby County (a)

April 28: Millwall (h)

May 6: Ipswich Town (a)

Preston North End:

March 6: Bristol City (h)

March 10: Fulham (h)

March 17: Sunderland (a)

March 30: Sheffield Wednesday (a)

April 2: Derby County (h)

April 7: Reading (a)

April 10: Leeds (h)

April 14: QPR (a)

April 21: Norwich City (h)

April 28: Sheffield United (a)

May 6: Burton Albion (h)


March 6: Burton Albion (a)

March 10: Millwall (a)

March 17: Middlesbrough (h)

March 30: Sheffield United (h)

April 2: Bristol City (a)

April 7: Ipswich Town (h)

April 10: Nottingham Forest (a)

April 14: Fulham (a)

April 21: QPR (h)

April 28: Barnsley (a)

May 6: Hull City (h)

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