Four wins, two defeats and one God Almighty rollicking.
Sheffield United’s preparations for the new League One season might not have been flawless, as his post-match outburst at The Shay confirmed.
But, speaking three days before they begin their latest bid for promotion with a visit to Bolton Wanderers, manager Chris Wilder still thinks Bramall Lane’s first team squad is in a pretty good place.
“We’re always looking to build and there’s always areas where you can improve,” he told The Star. “But yes, we’ll be ready. The lads are excited about the thought of things finally starting and we as staff are too.”
Despite being a lifelong United supporter and former defender, Wilder has been on a voyage of discovery since taking charge in May. Players have been released, existing ones assessed and new ones signed. The 48-year-old, previously of Oxford and Northampton Town, is also in the process of overhauling United’s tactics with an aggressive high-press replacing the more possession based approach Nigel Adkins employed last term.
Responsible for helping his side score nine goals during its opening two warm-up fixtures - against Stocksbridge Park Steels and a Murcia Representative XI - Wilder was left decidedly unimpressed by the way it was executed when United returned to action at FC Halifax Town. But, he explained last night, even losing 2-0 to Billy Heath’s men proved an illuminating experience.
“I think we’ve had a bit of everything in pre-season,” he said. “We’ve played well in certain periods. We’ve pressed and tried to get after the ball. That’s something we’ve been trying to implement in training. Barring once, which fell in my lap a little bit, we’ve shown a great attitude. I think that time showed us that we can’t take liberties. With anybody. So, looking back, that was another important reminder right there.”
Attitude has been a constant theme of Wilder’s conversations with the media ahead of Saturday’s trip to the Macron Stadium.
“I don’t like losing full stop but that’s always been the biggest thing for me at this stage of the season,” he continued. “The way players conduct themselves, not just during games but around the place every single day.
“We’ve seen them after victories and we’ve seen them after they’ve lost. I don’t want to be talking about getting a response all the time because that means we’ve had a bad result. There will be bumps in the road though, that’s football. And we’re pleased to see that, at this stage, when the lads didn’t do well they bounced right back.”
United dispatched Grimsby Town 3-1 after losing in West Yorkshire before losing to Derby County. They finished their warm-up programme with a 5-1 triumph over Handsworth Parramore five days ago.
“We tried to plan it so we faced different challenges,” Wilder said. “Teams who we knew would be really confrontational, teams who on paper should have been better than us and places where we knew we’d see a lot of the ball. Hopefully, that breadth will stand us in good stead for the obstacles you face during a long and gruelling campaign.”