It has been nearly six months since one of their matches finished all square but Chris Wilder, Sheffield United’s manager, last night rubbished reports his players are instructed to avoid draws at all costs.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s visit to Burton Albion, which could see United climb to the top of the Championship table, Wilder tackled claims their attacking approach is a direct response to the maxim that draws “kill” football teams.
“People talk about this drawing lark, I’d take a draw against Norwich, I’d take a draw against Cardiff, I’d take a draw against (Nottingham) Forest and I’d take a draw against QPR,” Wilder, reflecting on United’s defeats this term, said. “That’s four extra points isn’t it. It’s not down to the way we play. I just want us to get as many points as possible.”
Oldham Athletic were the last club to hold United to a draw when Jay O’Shea, now of Bury, cancelled-out Tope Obadeyi’s strike for the hosts. United, who went on to secure promotion, have won 18 and lost five of their 23 league outings since. They entered the international break ranked second; two points behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers who visit Reading on Saturday.
“We’re not looking at anything other than the next game,” Wilder said. “Seriously, that’s all we’re doing because the next game is always the most important and the one we’ve got coming-up is going to be very tough.”
Burton, managed by Wilder’s predecessor Nigel Clough, had lost five and drawn two of their previous seven fixtures before beating Millwall earlier this month. Although they are 21st in the table, only a place above the relegation zone, Clough’s squad proved a stubborn proposition on home soil last term; beating the likes of Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff City at the Pirelli Stadium. Brighton and Hove Albion, Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town, who achieved promotion to the Premier League, all secured narrow victories in Staffordshire.
Despite acknowledging they will have to “earn” anything they get, Clough told the media earlier this week that he hoped Albion’s victory at The Den would kick-start Albion’s campaign.
With Daniel Lafferty, David Brooks and Cameron Carter-Vickers called-up by their respective countries, United, who were also beaten at Middlesbrough earlier this season, have been forced to modify their preparations for the match.
“In my mind, we’ve already drawn a game anyway,” Wilder said. “We went to the Riverside, scored a perfectly good goal at the end and saw it disallowed. But it should have stood and so, for me at least, that was a draw without getting the point.”
“We always show respect, we’ve always got respect for the opposition,” Wilder added. “Equally, we try to focus on what we’re good at, on our strengths and give the opposition a problem to solve.”