Sheffield United: Chris Wilder wants his team to play with their heads as well as their hearts at Middlesbrough tonight

Chris Wilder has defended his team's enthusiasm but called for greater maturity
Chris Wilder has defended his team's enthusiasm but called for greater maturity
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Given his belief in bombastic football and determination never to take a backward step, it might come as a surprise to learn Chris Wilder is now espousing the benefits of a more cerebral approach.

But tonight, amid the malestrom of a Championship fixture against Tony Pulis' Middlesbrough, he wants Sheffield United to play with their heads as well as their hearts.

"We have to learn about the division, about different ways of going about things and recognise we can't always just steamroller teams," he said. "This is a tough division that we're looking to do well in so there's always a balance to be struck."
Wilder's call for United to develop a slightly more measured mentality is in part a response to their defeat by Swansea City on the opening weekend of the new Championship season. Having spent much of Saturday night and most of Sunday analysing footage of the game, he identified an insatiable desire to try and force the issue as a factor behind their demise. The first of the visitors' two goals, after George Baldock had opened the scoring, was highlighted as a case study in the danger of being too impetuous although Wilder has suspected for several months now that United must become more tactically astute.
"For that one, we had three midfielders ahead of our centre-forwards," he said. "Is that a naivety or an enthusiasm? "Leon (Clarke) was the guy trying to make the tackle because he was having to fill in. It shouldn't be like that.
"Don't be embarrassed if the other team has the ball. Don't be obsessed by having the ball all the time. "Listen, I'll bark at people if they don't go after the ball when they should be. But I won't bark at people if they're not running when they should be sitting in."
"In a way it's a positive though," Wilder continued. "There's an honesty about the group that, possibly, if they don't run and go to press they feel bad. I trust the group though. It's about saying 'I trust you to sit back and not to press' in certain situations. Listen, if have a chance to get at the opposition, we want to take it. But we're not up against mug players and mug sides. If we go steaming in, we'll get caught. And we did. Go back to the end of last season when we went to Birmingham and they needed a win to stay up, which they got, with only a few games to go. They hardly crossed the half way line."
The trip to Teesside, originally scheduled for later this month, represents an early opportunity for United's squad to demonstrate it has heeded that advice. Middlesbrough, who drew with Millwall three days ago, boast several players capable of exploiting any gaps which appear in their defensive line, including Jonny Howson and Denmark international Martin Braithwaite.
Speaking at the Steelphalt Academy yesterday, Wilder also revealed his respect for opposite number Tony Pulis whose methods, despite not always finding favour among the purists, are certainly celebrated in Bramall Lane's bootroom.
"Every time I meet Tony, I get on great with him," Wilder explained. "He doesn't beat about the bush. Two weeks ago, I went to a manager's meeting and he was there rattling into referees. I was sat there thinking 'Go on Tony'. He's a senior manager who has spent most of his career in the Premier League. Nobody has given him that career. He's gone out there and built it himself."
"Listen, I think there can be a bit of snobbery about at times," Wilder added. "Tony probably suffers from that a bit because don't tell me he's not got good players there. Don't tell me people like Howson can't play football. But you've got to be organised. Sam Allardyce got the same thing. Go back to his time at Bolton when he was working with the likes of Youri Djorkaeff and the guy from Real Madrid, Iván Campo. They could play, couldn't they? But Sam got slaughtered for wanting to be strong at set-plays and things like that. Why wouldn't you want to be? It makes sense, surely?"
With Jake Wright (face) and Paul Coutts (leg) United's only absentees, Wilder must decide whether to start Ben Woodburn and Billy Sharp at the Riverside. Both were named on the bench against Swansea before being brought on during the closing stages.
"We picked the best team for that game and we'll pick the best team for this one as well," Wilder said, refusing to rule-out the possibility of tweaking his first choice eleven in response to the Swansea result. "That's what we always do."