Before he sat down to discuss Saturday’s South Yorkshire derby, Chris Wilder made a wish.
That whatever the result against Barnsley - draw, lose or preferably win - he will not spend Monday morning with Sheffield United’s club secretary drafting yet another complaint about the match officials.
“Listen, I’ve got better things to do with my time, more important things to be honest, than wasting an hour on stuff like that,” Wilder said. “I think the refs, generally, have been pretty good. But there have been some major decisions, key decisions in fact, that definitely have not gone our way.”
United opened the new Championship season with a 1-0 victory over Brentford before being beaten by Middlesbrough and Cardiff City. All three games have contained moments of controversy with one in particular - Jack O’Connell’s disallowed ‘equaliser’ at the Riverside last weekend - testing the manager’s patience.
“Listen, I’m not asking for decisions to go for us,” Wilder continued. “Just for the correct ones to be made. We had a goal ruled-out against Brentford that shouldn’t have been, a penalty turned down at Cardiff and, of course, there’s Jack at Boro too.
“I spoke to Neil (Warnock, the City manager) before the game down there and he said it was just as well he wasn’t involved in that one because he’d be looking at an FA charge. I think that says it all.”
Wilder, who will be without Richard Stearman for the meeting with Paul Heckingbottom’s side, was quick to dismiss suggestions United are seeking to blame officialdom for their recent woes during weekly pre-match media briefing. But, acknowledging his team must improve “at both ends of the pitch” in order to avoid a third successive defeat, it would be a major surprise if he does not attempt to exploit the sense of injustice which is beginning to develop within United’s squad. A lifelong supporter with an encyclopedic knowledge of its history, the 49-year-old appreciates “us against the rest” situations tend to bring the best out of his club.
“We’re not happy with the situation,” Wilder said. “Our play, generally, has been reasonably good. But it’s both boxes where we need to get better. And a refereeing decision that goes our way. The top guys are really good at deflecting from a performance but I’m never going to do that. You don’t get anywhere, in my opinion, if you don’t front up and that’s what we’ll always do.”
Stearman, a summer signing from Fulham, is set to be out of action for around two to four weeks after damaging a hamstring during Tuesday’s game in the Welsh capital. Although United are still awaiting the results of a scan, their own physiotherapy department has delivered its own prognosis.
“That’s their opinion,” Wilder said. “That’s what they think will come back.”