Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, is convinced his players possess the mental toughness required to drag themselves across the League One finishing line this season.
United enter Saturday’s game against Bolton Wanderers five points clear at the top of the table - seven points ahead of Phil Parkinson’s third placed side - with 13 matches remaining.
Although previous squads have faltered at the final hurdle - United amassed 90 points before being beaten in the play-off final four years ago - Wilder insisted his team is made of sterner stuff.
“They’ve answered a lot of questions out there with the performances,” he said. “That is our team, they have to get it into good positions, react, press and get into shape. We base our work ethic on game, tempo and commitment. Those are the things you have to do here, and obviously show that quality too. But, the most important thing, is having that ability to stick together and do what it takes when the situations demands. Which is what these lads are doing now.”
But Wilder (inset), who claimed United made their nearest rivals Scunthorpe look “distinctly average” during periods of last weekend’s match at Bramall Lane, warned his comments should not be interpreted as a sign the club believes it already has one foot in the Championship.
“I think we know better than anyone here what can happen and that it’s never over until somebody tells you it’s a done deal,” he said. “There are a lot of good teams in this division who will all fancy their chances of doing something. But, no matter how a game is going, these lads are showing they aren’t prepared to be out-fought. They are prepared to put themselves on the line. Whatever else happens, they won’t be out-fought.”
Parkinson, who will be without Jay Spearing and Andy Taylor for the visit to South Yorkshire, granted Wanderers time-off earlier this week to help them recuperate following a bruising encounter with his former club Bradford City five days ago.
“Bravery is two things in football; it can be a physical challenge but it can also be showing for the ball when the pressure is on,” he said. “We’ll need both at Sheffield United.”