It might not be the longest winning sequence in the history of English football but Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, last night insisted his team deserve “huge praise” for taking maximum points from their previous five games.
Particularly, he explained, because of the special set of circumstances the South Yorkshire club faces in League One.
“The players are proud of it,” Wilder said. “This is a huge club at this level of football, so no matter what the run is, the next game is always going to be a game where teams raise their performances and supporters raise their voices. They are desperate to turn us over, so there is always pressure on us to win games. I don’t mean this with any disrespect to anyone else in the division but, if you look at the crowds, we get by far and away the biggest and there’s possibly only one other side (Bradford City) who can even compete with us. That brings its own demands.”
Samir Carruthers, the former MK Dons midfielder, admitted games against United are “the ones everyone else looks for on the fixture list” after joining Wilder’s squad earlier this week.
“The players have not shown any sense of pressure or nerves in their play,” Wilder added. “I think they are enjoying the challenge of going five games unbeaten, and see if we can make it six.”
To do that, United must this afternoon overcome a Southend side unbeaten in 10 outings and on the brink of the play-off positions.
Wilder, whose squad is three points clear of second-placed Bolton Wanderers, acknowledged: “They are going to be tough opposition, make no doubt about it. They’ve got some excellent players, their midfield is one of the best in the division and the manager (Phil Brown) knows exactly what it’s all about.
“So, if we want to take something, we’re going to have to be right at it again. Like I say, I think this group of lads enjoys meeting challenges. But, if you want to achieve, you’ve got to prove that week in and week out.”
Brown, meanwhile, has confirmed defender Ben Coker is expected to miss this today’s match at Roots Hall due to an ankle problem.
Describing the 26-year-old as the “best left-back” in the division, Brown said: “He’s back out running which is good to see and I’m pushing the medical staff to have him back involved for the Sheffield United game this weekend but realistically there’s no chance of that happening, to be fair.”