Why giving up now would go against all of Sheffield United's values
Sheffield United have an “obligation” not to admit defeat in the battle for Premier League survival, Chris Wilder insisted ahead of today’s vist to Crystal Palace, after warning that surrendering top-flight status without a fight would represent a betrayal of the values he has instilled at the club.
After losing 14 of their opening 16 matches this term, United prepared for tomorrow’s match at Selhurst Park 11 points adrift of safety and already staring relegation in the face with four months of the season remaining.
Although Wilder accepts it will “take something special” to avoid a return to the Championship two years after guiding United to the second promotion of his reign, the 53-year-old said: “We’ll go right until the end, you can be sure of that. Nobody here will walk away from it or give up, because that’s not what we’re about.
“We have an obligation, to our supporters first and foremost, to leave everything out there. We also have an obligation to ourselves.
“You’ve seen the body language of the players. That’s not fake or false. They are giving absolutely everything. They’re fighting and they’ll continue to fight, because I know what these lads are made of and what they’re about.”
United will enter their meeting with Roy Hodgson’s side hoping to avoid a third straight defeat after being beaten by Everton and Burnley over the Christmas period. A week before welcoming Carlo Ancelotti’s men to Bramall Lane, Wilder watched his squad come within four minutes of securing their first win of the season at Brighton and Hove Albion; taking the lead despite seeing John Lundstram sent-off during the first-half and then holding out until Albion scrambled home a last gasp equaliser. Lundstram completes his three match ban this afternoon, while Sander Berge, Jack O’Connell and the two players who recently tested positive for Covid-19 also sit-out the contest.
“If I’m playing golf, I don’t walk in after 11 holes because I’m having a bad round,” Wilder said. “I keep going. The players and myself will keep going. There’s no other way to approach it.”
United had just finished mid-table in League One when Wilder was appointed in the summer of 2016. He led them out of the third tier at the first time of asking, mounting a challenge for the play-offs a season later before helping United reach the highest for the first time in more than a decade.
“When we were in League One, there was pressure on us,” Wilder said. “When we went up, everybody was telling us we’d struggle or go straight back down. We didn’t. That’s because of the fight within the group, and also the talent there as well.
“That’s what this club is all about and we won’t accept anything less. That’s what I demand and that’s what the lads demand in that dressing room as well. That’s what they are showing, despite what results might lead people to believe.”
“They’ll carry on doing that,” he added. “They’ll carry on doing it because that’s what we stand for.”