Sheffield United: Old favourites told to expect no favours

Chris Morgan celebrates promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United
Chris Morgan celebrates promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United

Protocol presents them from saying so. After all, with Port Vale battling against relegation, they will be keen not to offend the sensibilities of their own fans.

But today’s match is one of the highlights of the season for Michael Brown, Chris Morgan and David Kelly; whose presence in the technical area means Sheffield United are not planning on this being a routine visit to Staffordshire.

David Kelly (middle row, second left) is a former Sheffield United player and coach

David Kelly (middle row, second left) is a former Sheffield United player and coach

“I don’t know Michael too well, I know Morgs better and, being honest, I don’t know David at all,” Chris Wilder said. “But they all played the game in a really competitive manner and so will demand exactly the same from their players.”

With a combined 493 appearances for the visitors between them and numerous memorable performances to boot, Vale’s interim management team are United aristocracy. Wilder’s achievements since taking charge at Bramall Lane 11 months ago have bestowed him with exactly the same status. But, even though the 49-year-old yesterday recognised the service of Brown and Morgan in particular - “Our fans will always remember them” - personal pride and professional obligations ensured he was in pretty unsentimental mood.

“Our season isn’t over yet,” Wilder, whose side are guaranteed a top two finish, continued. “So there’s going to be no switching off at all. We’ve got massive numbers coming to watch us and there’s an obligation right there.

“But there’s an obligation to ourselves too and I’m not going to happy if this is settled on attitude. We want to win and, no matter what the circumstances or situation, that does not change.”

Brown, United’s player of the year in 2002 and scorer of a memorable goal against Sheffield Wednesday a year later, was handed the reins at Vale Park earlier this season after previously working as Bruno Ribeiro’s assistant. Kelly, his former team mate in South Yorkshire, subsequently joined Brown’s backroom staff before Morgan, who captained United to the Premier League in 2006, was hired a month ago.

“You don’t have a career as long as David has in football without being good at what you do or knowing what it’s all about,” Wilder said. “They’ve picked up at their place of late and so we’re ready for a battle.”

United, already promoted and with a huge travelling army in tow, view this afternoon’s fixture as another potential step towards the League One title. Vale, meanwhile, hope it will prove a turning point in their battle for survival. Despite winning three of their last four outings on home soil - and drawing the other against MK Dons - Brown’s side find themselves a point and a place from safety; thanks, in no small part, to their terrible away record. Last weekend’s defeat at Chesterfield prompted angry scenes among Vale supporters. Brown’s preparations for United’s visit, however, have been boosted by the possible return of Remie Streete and Jerome Thomas from injury.

“We’ve got no fresh concerns ourselves,” Wilder said. “Everybody who played last weekend is okay.”