Wind, rain and and one abandoned game but Chris Wilder explains why Sheffield United's trip to Scotland was a success

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“I’ve never used the wet jacket as much,” Chris Wilder said following the penultimate session of Sheffield United’s training camp in Scotland.

The weather north of the border has been grim. Grimmer than Arthur’s Seat on a dark December evening. Particularly on Tuesday, when United’s friendly in Dundee was abandoned because of Storm Francis. At one stage, one of the gigantic advertising banners which adorn Tannadice Park appeared in danger of being torn from its moorings.

The wind and the rain aren’t the only challenges Wilder has faced during this summer’s pre-season campaign. United originally planned to base themselves in Evian, on the shores of Lake Geneva. But their booking, at the same hotel that Liverpool were scheduled to check into a week earlier, had to be cancelled when a rise in Covid-19 cases prompted the UK government to place France on its watchlist. If it is any consolation, it bucketed down last week in the Auvergne-Rhone Alpes region as well.

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“A lot of what we’ve had to do this time has been off the cuff,” Wilder said. “But you never get everything your own way in football, you have to take things on the chin and think on your feet and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

“We’ve been able to get away and that’s always invaluable,” he continued. “One of the things we were really interested to see was what the lads’ attitude was like when they were up against it and had to adapt. It was spot on, brilliant, just what we wanted to see. They were focused and just got on with it and that’s something we always pride ourselves in doing, which is really important if you ask me.

“That’s what separates people who do something, just getting on with things, from those who don’t give themselves that chance.”

Reflecting on United’s stay at Oriam, which cost around £35m to build after being designated as the new home for Scotland’s elite sportsmen and women, Wilder still declared the visit a success - despite seeing one eighth of the Premier League club’s warm-up programme blown away on Tayside. Three days later, in the shadow of the complex’s main building - a curved steel structure designed to pay homage to Roberto Carlos’ strike against France in 1997, described as “the goal that defied physics” - an equally clinical finish from John Fleck saw United beat Heart of Midlothian.

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The Scotland midfielder is among seven members of Wilder’s squad who will miss this week’s trips to Derby County and Preston North End after being selected for international duty. But, as Wilder’s captain Billy Sharp pointed out before returning to England on Saturday, successful top-flight teams are adept at solving problems.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder braves Storm Francis at Dundee United: Mark Scates / SNS GroupSheffield United manager Chris Wilder braves Storm Francis at Dundee United: Mark Scates / SNS Group
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder braves Storm Francis at Dundee United: Mark Scates / SNS Group

“It’s been a different environment in Scotland but, to be honest, there are going to be nights next season when we’ve got to perform in terrible conditions,” he said. “So I actually think it’s been really good preparation. It’s what we need because it’s the type of situation, more often than not, that we’re going to find ourselves in.”

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