No matter how bad the weather, even if their coach develops a puncture or breaks down, Sheffield United’s time-keeping will be impeccable ahead of today’s game at Carrow Road.
“I can’t be late,” Chris Wilder admitted. “We’ll be setting off from the hotel at 9am. The players have been told ‘get yourselves up and get ready.’ Breakfast is at 6.30 in the morning, everybody has got to be packed by then.”
Wilder, of course, was referring to his complaints about Daniel Farke’s punctuality following Norwich City’s visit to Bramall Lane in September when, after losing 1-0 in controversial circumstances, United’s manager labelled the German’s late arrival for a pre-match meeting with the officials disrespectful. But, as the two teams prepare for this afternoon’s return fixture in Norfolk, Wilder revealed relations with his counterpart have now thawed. To such an extent, in fact, they are planning to share a Beck’s, Bock or Weißbier afterwards.
“Football is an emotional business,” Wilder continued. “And they can run especially high during the moments after a game. I said what I said and, obviously given the result, I wasn’t happy. But Daniel came in and had a drink with us in the office when we’d finished with the media. There was no problem whatsoever. He seemed a decent bloke.”
Whether or not the détente holds will depend not upon the outcome but Norwich’s approach to a match which pits the visitors against a team which came within a penalty shoot-out of ending Chelsea’s FA Cup hopes on Wednesday night. Wilder went on record to express his frustration with the gamesmanship and time-wasting tactics which followed Yanic Wildschut’s first-half strike.
Although United defender Enda Stevens has since described it as “a learning experience”, a repeat is bound to draw an angry response; especially given Wilder’s belief that attitude and aggression have helped his squad climb to sixth in the Championship table. Nevertheless, speaking at the Steelphalt Academy earlier this week, he preferred to focus on the opposition’s more positive aspects.
Dismissing suggestions Norwich could pay the price for their exertions at Stamford Bridge, Wilder said: “People pull out energy stops from all sorts of places so we’re not taking anything for granted. Whether they played extra time or not.
“They’ve got a lot of good players, they’ve got a lad in from Spurs (Marcus Edwards) and some midfielders who will come back in. He might make acquisitions to strengthen.”
Despite entering the contest seven places behind United, Norwich are in better form. Wilder’s side have won just twice in 10 outings while the hosts are unbeaten in six and triumphed 1-0 at Bristol City seven days ago.
“Yet again, the focus is on us. They’re in good form though and can hurt you but we will major on us. We want to produce another good solid performance but with that little bit of magic to get the result. Overall, our performances have been really good but we’ve just lacked that.”
United could hand Lee Evans, Ricky Holmes and Ryan Leonard their debuts for the club in at attempt to translate possession into points. On-loan centre-forward James Wilson is also expected to feature after making his first appearance during last week’s goalless draw with Sheffield Wednesday.