Unlike Eugen Trica, who was so incensed by events during a recent CSM Politehnica Iasi fixture he marched out of the stadium, Chris Wilder stayed until the bitter end of last weekend’s Championship defeat to Millwall.
But, like his Romanian counterpart, the Sheffield United manager was determined to make a point during what proved to be a brutally frank post match media conference.
Even so, despite clearly being enraged by his team’s performance at The Den, I wonder if Wilder was also making a theatrical as well as footballing gesture. It has been a long time since United’s players were subjected to a good old fashioned rollicking which underlines how effective they have been of late. Using phrases such as “Not what we’re about” and “very nearly unacceptable” seems a shade harsh given, at the beginning of the season, few people expected them to be troubling, let alone challenging, the automatic promotion places. The fact is, however, they are. Maybe Wilder’s condemnation of what he witnessed in London, the decision to absolutely flail his team rather than gently remind them of their responsibilities or cajole, was as much a reminder to the powers-that-be about what is now at stake as an attempt to provoke a response when Bristol City visit Bramall Lane tonight. If not, then given the fact they have spent most of the past 19 months being celebrated, it will not do the squad any harm to be chastised.
What must be remembered, though, is that United, despite their recent chequered form, are still performing well in a division where one club recently awarded a defender a contract worth £50,000 a week. It is a situation far preferable to the one many envisaged when the season kicked-off in August but still presents problems.
Social media is a notoriously poor barometer of public opinion but if my timelines and feeds are anything to go by, two scapegoats for United’s run of three games without a win are beginning to emerge. Both, perhaps inevitably, are on loan and neither, although culpable for a couple of mistakes of late, are particularly responsible for this hiccup in results.
Wilder, having mounted a passionate defence of John Lundstram’s credentials before the trip to the capital, will be keen to ensure the unequivocal backing his side have enjoyed since the start of last term’s League One title-winning campaign continues moving forward.
United’s directors are already facing calls to “show some ambition” when the transfer window reopens. They should, while resisting the temptation to try and compete, even if it were possible, with teams who have been established at this level for years. Having sanctioned new deals for the likes of David Brooks and John Fleck, making million pound signings now would risk wrecking their plan to become a self-sustainable’ish business and, given the wages such acquisitions demands, potentially damage the dressing room harmony United’s coaching staff have worked so hard to create. A hunger for success, tempered by sensible financial planning, is key both on the pitch and in the boardroom.