What Sheffield United's manager had to say about player talks
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has downplayed the significance of talks several members of his squad admit have taken place behind the scenes in recent weeks as they attempt to address the poor run of results which see them enter Boxing Day’s game against Everton at the bottom of the Premier League table.
Last weekend’s draw at Brighton and Hove Albion was only the second time United have avoided defeat this season despite finishing ninth in the rankings last term, with their only other point coming when Fulham visited South Yorkshire two months ago.
Speaking before the trip to the AMEX Stadium, which saw United come within four minutes of beating Graham Potter’s side following John Lundstram’s first-half red card, centre-forward David McGoldrick revealed senior members of the dressing room are holding regular meetings to discuss the reasons behind their failure to replicate the form which saw them challenge for a place in Europe earlier this year.
“They should be talking all the time, because it’s about the immediate future of the football club,” Wilder said, dismissing attempts to portray the get-togethers as symptomatic of a crisis. “If I was in there, playing, I’d be talking about it all the time - when I come in, over breakfast, over lunch, on the coach. It shouldn’t be down to me and my coaching staff all the time. I’m not surprised they are talking, because I know what those lads are like and that they care.”
After labelling United as “passive” en route to a 3-0 loss to Southampton earlier this month, Wilder was encouraged by his team’s combative displays during their subsequent games against Manchester United and Albion. Despite seeing John Lundstram sent-off on the south coast, Jayden Bogle handed United the lead before the hosts equalised during the closing stages. With Lundstram now suspended and Sander Berge facing three months out because of a hamstring injury, Bogle could start the meeting with fourth-placed Everton in midfield, although Ben Osborn and Oliver Norwood will be hoping for recalls.
“Everton are a huge football club, who keep adding quality players,” Wilder, who hopes to make two signings himself during the forthcoming transfer window, said. “They are an established Premier League club who have attracted one of the best managers (Carlo Ancelotti) in world football. He won’t go there and mess about in terms of recruitment during the window.”
Former United striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is expected to lead Ancelotti’s attack at Bramall Lane after scoring 16 times in 22 appearances for both club and country this season. The England international could be partnered by James Rodriguez, previously of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, if the Colombian recovers from a calf problem. Calvert-Lewin has not been on target since Rodriguez was ruled-out of action, emphasising the importance of their partnership to Everton.
“Us, at the top of our game, can get a result in this match,” Wilder said. “It’s deeply disappointing where we are and there has to be a reaction but we got one of those last time out and the time before that.”