Managed by a supporter, co-owned by another lifelong follower and also captained by a fan, there will be no shortage of passion among Sheffield United ranks during tonight’s Steel City derby.
But, as defender Chris Basham acknowledged ahead of Sheffield Wednesday’s visit to Bramall Lane, cool heads and even colder hearts are required if his team mates are to produce an effective performance against their arch-rivals from Hillsborough.
“We’re relaxed, we just want to play our stuff and show our talent,” he said. “What happened last time, the teams are going to be so different. If we play our football, the way we have been all season, then we’ll have a good chance. But first it’s important to battle and earn that right.”
There is, as Basham acknowledged, no secrets about United’s gameplan. In fact, revealing his three new signings are all fit and ready to feature, even Chris Wilder refused to indulge in any pre-match psychology warfare during the club’s media conference yesterday. Nor, Basham admitted, is it worth denying that United want to combine the passion of the terraces with ruthless professionalism to inspire a match-winning display.
“The owner (Kevin McCabe) comes in beforehand and shakes our hand and everything,” he continued. He always wishes us well. The gaffer also supports the club so, if we do get beat, we get a rollicking. He knows how big this is. It’s about performing on the day
Perhaps the only area where United have Wednesday guessing is the permutations of Wilder’s attack. Billy Sharp, who watched September’s victory over Carlos Carvalhal’s team from the bench due to injury, will be hoping to start although Clayton Donaldson’s burgeoning partnership with Leon Clarke means he could again miss-out.
“The skipper was gutted to miss the last one,” Basham continued. “He will be desperate to get out on that pitch. He was hurt for the last one but he still really played his part. This isn’t one of those games where you’re disappointed not to be involved. It’s everyone together.”
United, seventh in the Championship table, impressed against 16th placed Wednesday four months ago and have since bolstered their squad with the arrivals of Lee Evans, Ryan Leonard and on-loan centre-forward James Wilson. A veteran of that 4-2 triumph, Basham said it has served as the template for United’s preparations this week although, following Carvalhal’s departure and Jos Luhukay’s appointment, he expects Wednesday to pose a much sterner test.
“They’ll be hurting. They’ll be lots of lads wanting to put a stamp down with the new manager. I don’t know loads about him but he seems mentally tough on their players so I’m sure he’ll be trying to effect this. But we’re also mentally strong.”