'We're fighting for our reputations,' Sheffield United manager admits ahead of Liverpool's visit
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder admits his team’s reputation is at stake during the remainder of the Premier League season, as it battles to salvage something from a campaign which appears destined to end in relegation.
As they prepare for this weekend’s game against reigning champions Liverpool 14 points adrift of safety with only 13 matches left to play, Wilder admitted following Saturday’s defeat by Fulham that only an “amazing” sequence of results will see United preserve their top-flight status two years after climbing out of the second tier.
Although he insists an unprecedented number of injuries has contributed to their struggles this term, Wilder acknowledged United must fight to retain the support of their “brilliant” fans over the coming weeks after accepting patience among some will be wearing thin.
“The backing we’ve had over the past five years or so has been something else,” Wilder, who has twice led United to promotion, said. “It’s been a major part of what these lads have achieved and I also think they deserve it, given everything they’ve done, although it’s never taken for granted.
“Because we don’t take it for granted, we’ve also got to keep on battling away no matter what happens. This group has built its reputation on doing that and I’m sure it will carry on doing the same, as I know the characters and personalities in it.”
“Nobody is enjoying what’s happening at the moment, least of all any of us,” he continued. “I’m not daft enough or too proud to think there won’t be criticism because of the way things are going. I do believe there are reasons behind it, which I’ve gone into pretty regularly. But I also accept that we’ve got to keep going out there and giving everything, which we always have done in the past and always will going forward into the future.
“With everything these boys have been able to do, with the success they’ve brought to the football club and can bring again, I don’t want that to get lost or forgotten. I’m sure it won’t because I know what our fans are all about.”
Wilder, a lifelong United supporter himself, is wrestling with a series of major selection dilemmas ahead of Liverpool’s visit with all three of his first choice centre-halves likely to be unavailable. With John Egan joining long-term absentee Jack O’Connell on the treatment table due to a dislocated toe, United saw Chris Basham suffer a suspected hamstring strain at Craven Cottage.
Wilder is expected to provide an update on Basham’s condition when he addresses the media via Zoom tomorrow. Midfielder Sander Berge is also out as he continues his recovery from surgery while centre-forward Lys Mousset suffered yet another set back in his battle for fitness during a development fixture on Monday evening.
“I’ve never known anything like it during all my time in football,” Wilder said, referring to United’s casualty list. “The vast majority of the issues, pretty much every single one, we’ve not been able to do anything about either. We’ve just got to keep on trying to push through.”