Six points clear at the top of the League One table with only eight matches remaining, life should be pretty easy for Chris Wilder right now.
But the 49-year-old, whose Sheffield United side is tantalisingly close to securing a top two finish, has revealed he is grappling with several bothersome issues behind the scenes at Bramall Lane.
Finding new ways to avoid discussing the possibility of promotion will take-up much of Wilder’s time before Thursday’s weekly media briefing. Ensuring everybody, squad members and coaching staff included, remains obidiently on message too.
However, proving that footballer managers are not immune to first world problems, Wilder explained those are actually the least of his worries.
“We’ve got some good players who are not getting a game here, good players who are on the bench and who we are desperate to get in,” he said. “The trouble is, if that’s the right word to use, there are good players in the starting eleven also who have been winning football matches. It’s still something we are aware of though.”
Despite the existence of untouchables such as Billy Sharp, John Fleck and Simon Moore, arguably the thing which causes Wilder most sleepness nights is also United’s greatest strength.
Caolan Lavery and Jay O’Shea can count themselves unfortunate not to have started last weekend’s victory over Charlton Athletic, having both scored at Swindon Town four days earlier. Likewise Samir Carruthers who, after recovering from injury, impresses every time he comes on.
But, as Wilder acknowledged, the sight of them poised and ready to come on coaxed even greater levels of performance out of those who began the 2-1 victory on the pitch rather than the bench.
“It’s not an ask to run about, to dig in or to go that extra bit,” he said. “It’s a given for me.
“That’s not a threat, about good players not being able to get in the starting eleven, but players aren’t daft. They see the lads waiting to come in.
“I don’t care where you’ve come from or how big a name you are, that will always be a given for me; giving everything you’ve got. Putting maximum effort and fight in.”
The depth of options now at Wilder’s disposal is probably best illustrated by the fact that Harry Chapman, the on-loan Middlesbrough midfielder, has yet to feature since renewing his agreement with United two months ago. Chapman, an England under-20 international, had been scheduled to take part in yesterday’s behind-closed-doors friendly with Rotherham alongside Stefan Scougall, Louis Reed and James Wilson.
“We need to keep everybody as sharp as possible,” Wilder, speaking ahead of this weekend’s visit to Oldham Athletic, said. “We’ll arrange a few more of these to ensure that’s the case.”