One of Chris Wilder’s first acts as Sheffield United manager was to tear down the motivational posters which, at the beginning of last season, had sprung-up around the dressing room areas at Bramall Lane.
If a player needed any extra incentive to play for the club, so his reasoning went, then they probably should not be there in the first place. Natural-born winners rather than snippets of Native American wisdom were required.
It was that belief which yesterday saw United allow Che Adams to join Birmingham City and tonight, against Crewe Alexandra in the EFL Cup, means Wilder wants a performance as well as a result.
“I’ve always said, the most important group is the ones who have got to put pressure on those who start,” he said. “Who have got to push and show desire to get back in. I want problems, I want players to push and give us that competition. You need that if you want to achieve something in this game.”
Wilder is expected to rotate his squad for the first round meeting with Steve Davis’ side. But, as he explained during United’s pre-match media conference, its principles will not change. Despite being narrowly beaten by Bolton Wanderers on the opening day of the new season, Wilder expressed satisfaction with the visitors’ application and attitude. But, he acknowledged they quickly must learn to translate performances into positive results.
“Listen, I don’t want to be walking around grounds afterwards, getting into the lifts and hearing people tell us we were unfortunate,” he said. “That we were very hard done too. I want to win.
“A lot has been spoken about how I am and how I’m going to manage. Well, you’ll never get any spin and I’ll always be honest. But neither is life ever black and white. Which is why, even though we lost and we’re not happy about that, I’m not going to throw the lads under a bus and tell them they were rubbish. Because they weren’t.”
Wilder cited a lack of quality deliveries and attention to detail in the final third as factors behind United’s defeat at the Macron Stadium before insisting those “will improve when everyone gets used to one another and in time.” Nevertheless, he is poised to ring the changes this evening with Stefan Scougall, Marc McNulty and Jake Wright snr among those hoping for starts.
“I don’t think we can change our mentality as a group,” Wilder said. “But what we can change is the personnel and we’ll look at that. But I don’t want us to change our mentality all the way through.”
“We’ve got forfeits in training to get us into that mindset where, whenever anyone pulls on a red and white shirt, they’re not going to take it easy,” he continued. “It’s within them as individuals. We will go full tilt in every game to win it, regardless of whether it’s Bolton, the League Cup, the EFL Trophy or a team that’s not so fancied. We’ll try and pick the right team for the right day and keep everybody hungry and fresh. Especially at the top of the pitch.”
United were preparing to re-enter the transfer market before Adams’ departure with a cover in midfield and possibly full-back known to feature on Wilder’s wish list.
“Unfortunately, not everybody is going to get into the team,” he said. “They’re all professional footballers and that’s their aim. Some, which is a shame, won’t but they’ve still got a massive part to play. They are the ones who decide, in a big way, how we get on this year. Not every single player is going to play 90 minutes of every single game.”
Tonight’s match marks Wilder’s competitive debut in the technical area after taking charge of the club he has supported since childhood in May. The 48-year-old led Northampton Town to promotion from League Two last term before being confirmed as Nigel Adkins’ successor.
“We’ll take the last result on the chin, not like it but take it on the chin, and get better,” Wilder said. “That’s the aim right now.”