Sheffield Derby: ‘Forget Manchester, London and Liverpool, this is the biggest and best game in England’
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, wants tomorrow’s derby against Sheffield Wednesday to remind the nation the city is a footballing powerhouse after insisting his team will leave Hillsborough with their heads held high.
Questioning why Steve Bruce's predecessors at Wednesday had attempted to downplay the game's significance when the two clubs met last term, Wilder, whose side are third in the Championship table, argued it deserved to be treated on a par with versions in the North-West, North-East and London.
"For us, 100 per cent, this is the top," he said. "I said it last year. "I didn't understand the last managers (at Wednesday) saying what they did. And I'm not saying that to have a pop, I'm saying it from the heart.
"Other cities shout about their derbies. Why shouldn't we shout about our derby? There might be bigger fan bases in Liverpool or Newcastle, but try telling people here those games are bigger. We'll have two teams going for a win, full tilt."
"The message we want to send out is two teams, in a passionate city, going at it in the right way," Wilder added.
United are unbeaten in their last three meetings against Wednesday, beating Carlos Carvalhal's side in the corresponding fixture last season before Jos Luhukay, who was replaced by Bruce earlier this year, secured two goalless draws at Bramall Lane.
"Our attitude isn't the fear of losing," Wilder, who was frustrated by Wednesday's ultra-defensive approach during those fixtures, said. "It's the prize of the win.
"We'll walk in through the front door and we'll walk out of the front door having given everything."
Victory over Wednesday would see United move back into the automatic promotion positions while Bruce, who started his managerial career at Bramall Lane, has refused to rule his squad out of the race for play-off qualification.
Given his opposite number's comments, Wilder believes Wednesday will adopt a more attack-minded strategy in front of a sell-out crowd and justifiably claimed they make a mockery of suggestions the visitors enter the fixture under more pressure than their arch-rivals.
"Is our season decided on Monday night? No," he said. "But that doesn't take away from the fact we'll be going in full tilt. I don't think you can say there's more riding on it for one than the other. They can win a string of games. We have done that."
Describing last month's trip to fellow top-flight hopefuls West Bromwich Albion, which United won 1-0, as the perfect warm-up for this match, Wilder added: "I'm not going to change how we play. Why would I, after doing this for three years?
"We'll get pushed back and have to come through difficult periods. We'll try and push them back and make sure they have to try and come through difficult periods as well. That's what happened at West Brom."