Chris Wilder doesn’t do spin, doesn’t do double-speak or, as his latest pre-match briefing demonstrated, sporting analogies.
“Are you still with me?” he asked, midway through a convoluted comparison between golf and football. “Because, to be honest, I think I’ve lost myself. It’s probably best if I just keep it simple and say what I think. Stick to what I know.”
Sticking to what he knows has helped Wilder achieve great success since talking charge of Sheffield United just over a year-and-a-half ago. Fourth in the Championship, only seven months after lifting the League One title, his team enters tonight’s home fixture against Bristol City knowing a win would see them move above Lee Johnson’s side in the table and to within touching distance of second-placed Cardiff City in the race for the top-flight next term.
Wilder, as many United players discovered for the first time recently, is happy to say exactly what he thinks too. Richard Stearman, one of those who witnessed his dressing room dressing down following last weekend’s defeat by Millwall, admitted “It wasn’t pretty” when asked to describe the manager’s post-game rant. Wilder made no apologies for his reaction when he addressed the region’s journalists before training on Thursday morning. But, echoing Stearman’s sentiments about the importance of being honest, stressed he will have no hesitation doing the same again if the situation demands.
“We had chances, they had chances. They were more effective than us and deservedly won the game,” Wilder said. “Sometimes, at the end of the game, it’s not all about smashing players up. We’ve been defeated and I’ve been as quiet as a mouse at times. But they know where we are, where they have set their standards and raised their games on from last year. We just want to play well and show people what we’re about.”
Although the result at The Den extended United’s winless run to three, Wilder was keen to accentuate the positives of an otherwise remarkable season as they applied the finishing touches to their preparations for the visit of City.
“The players have historically shown a reaction,” Wilder continued. “They’re not just getting on the bus and getting off it not bothered. Because if they were, they wouldn’t have had the results they have. I know the character they’ve got.”
City, who moved ahead of United on goal difference after beating Middlesbrough, made the journey north last night searching for their third win in as many outings. Winger Jamie Paterson is a doubt for the visitors with a hamstring complaint while Wilder, insisting he was not surprised by their progress this term, could welcome back defender George Baldock (pictured).
“There’s no moaning from me,” Wilder said. “You have to just get on with it, injuries, refereeing decisions or whatever.”