Deep inside the bowels of Sheffield United’s training complex, behind two swing doors which shield its inhabitants from prying eyes, is an office.
Pretty nondescript, with the obligatory computers, whiteboards and flipcharts, the room could easily pass for a telephone call centre. But this otherwise unremarkable space, where manager Chris Wilder and his coaching staff spend much of their working day, will play a crucial role in deciding whether Sheffield United are competing at Championship level next season or still struggling to extricate themselves from League One.
“It’s good to talk and discuss things,” Wilder explained. “Bounce ideas off each other and come up with different schemes and plans. Ultimately, the final call is mine as you would expect. But it’s important, as far as I’m concerned at least, that people think and contribute.”
After failing to win any of their first five games this term, United have plenty of thinking to do before Saturday’s game against Oxford. And, following Wilder’s admission that recruitment is still firmly on the agenda, ahead of the transfer deadline later this month.
“Yes, it needs tweaking a bit,” he said. “But we knew that three or four weeks ago. People think it’s easy to bring players here but that’s far from the truth. But we will make us better as a team.”
Events at Millwall last weekend, where United succumbed to Steve Morison’s 89th minute penalty, highlighted those areas still in need of strengthening despite the arrival of nine new players since Wilder’s appointment in May. Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, centre-forwards Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp suffered from a lack of quality service while the error which gifted Millwall victory suggests and experienced old head in midfield or defence would not go amiss.
“I thought we were pretty good first-half,” Wilder, the United manager, said. “We went behind to a really good goal but we recovered well, showed bottle and created the better chances. We couldn’t carry that on into the second which, yes, is disappointing. But we should have taken something.”
Eliminating individual mistakes holds the key to transforming United’s fortunes. Tactically, no matter what the League One table suggests, they have not fallen short. Barring calls for Marc McNulty to be handed an opportunity, few would choose to argue with Wilder’s selection picks. But six of the eight goals conceded by United this season have come from baffling misjudgments. Jack O’Connell’s decision to handle rather than head Shane Ferguson’s cross was a case in point.
“Quite easily, we could have been looking at a totally different scenario,” Wilder, whose side will enter their next match in 24th place, said. “It’s been a bad start but we’ll do what’s needed to put it right.”