Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has predicted tonight’s match at Greenhous Meadow will reveal plenty about the character of his team.
Ignoring Shrewsbury Town’s predicament towards the foot of the table and the fact they are yet to appoint Micky Mellon’s replacement following the 44-year-old’s departure two weeks ago, Wilder explained why he regards United’s latest fixture as their most “dangerous” of the season so far.
“For me, these are the nights if you are going to be successful, you have to turn up,” Wilder said. “The games against Bradford and MK Dons, teams like that, they take care of themselves. It’s games like this that tell you what your team is all about. They will get the right messages and the right instructions. We’ll find out at about 9.45pm if they have listened to them. If we come through this test I’ll be delighted.”
United climbed to fifth - seven points behind League One leaders Scunthorpe - when they swept Port Vale aside last weekend. Despite praising his players’ performance en route to a convincing 4-0 win - “They were ruthless in both boxes” - Wilder immediately began to talk-up Shrewsbury’s threat during a frank post-match inquest. He continued in the same vein at United’s training complex yesterday.
“I’m driving the players on,” Wilder said. “If you look at our group, we’ve got a lot of talent and ability there. So we have to make sure the other side of things are there. The desire to win tackles, win headers and win races.”
“We need, as coaches and managers, to drive players on,” Wilder continued. “But we understand the pitfalls and understand this is a dangerous game. Nothing is given at the start of any game. We have to do the horrible bits of the game to allow us to get on the ball. We have to make sure we treat this and handle this in the right way.”
United travel to Shropshire unbeaten in their last eight league outings but Wilder, warming to his theme about the importance of taking nothing for granted, said: “It’s still very early days. Neil Harris was talking the other day about how you can’t read much into things yet. There are teams at the top who might last the course but others will fall away. There are others, like Millwall where Neil is and MK Dons, who are consistently good in this division but haven’t really got going yet. But the biggest thing you can talk about is Barnsley last year; the number of games they lost on the spin to the number of games they won on the trot before going up.
“The key to success in any division is that you have to turn-up. That’s the same in any division. No result is guaranteed. The three points up for grabs here and just as big as the ones against Port Vale.”