James Wilson’s first task after joining Sheffield United on loan wasn’t finding somewhere to live, acquainting himself with the city or even rehearsing the song he serenaded his new team mates with at the club’s training ground.
Instead, the 24-year-old centre-forward has revealed, devising a conditioning regime to ensure his body was suited to Chris Wilder’s relentless style of football was the immediate priority.
“There are different kinds of fitness depending on the team,” Wilson explained. “Everyone plays differently, there are lots of different styles and they all demand different things of you.
“Here, this is a high-pressing team. That’s what the manager wants us to do, press from the front and get on top of the opposition. So that requires certain things.
“At other clubs, who play a different way, you might be able to get your fitness just by working with the ball. There are lots of different types of fitness, if you know what I mean, depending on how you go about things.”
Wilson’s comments shed light not only on the demands United’s approach places upon Wilder’s team but also how far training techniques have come since the days players went on cross-country runs or sprinted up the terraces of their club’s home stadium to prepare themselves for games. Unfortunately for United, Wilson’s progress of late has been hampered by an ankle injury although, as their manager has been quick to stress, the majority of knocks his squad has sustained are of the “impact” variety.
“Ultimately, fitness comes with games of course,” Wilson, on loan from Manchester United, continued. “When I came here, I’d been working my way back from an injury and shown I was over that. But the type of fitness you need for first team football is different to the under-23’s because of the formations and personnel. But I wasn’t too far off that to begin with.”
Despite making only four starts since scoring on his full debut against Norwich City two months ago, Wilder is convinced Wilson can emerge as potent weapon in United’s attacking armoury as they chase back to back promotions following last season’s League One title triumph. Only two points behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough with eight matches remaining, the United manager’s squad travels to Brentford on Good Friday knowing that a win could see them climb back into the play-off positions.
“I think the good thing is that all of the lads up there bring something a little bit different to the table,” Wilder said. “They’re not the same type of player and that gives us flexibility both in terms of planning for games and also tactically during them. That’s exactly what we were looking for. We’re trying to cover all of the bases or certainly as many of them as we possibly can.”
Meanwhile, former United striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is set to return to Bramall Lane next week after being named in the England under-21 squad which faces Ukraine in a UEFA Championship qualifier.
Calvert-Lewin, now of Everton, is expected to spearhead the Young Lions’ attack as they attempt to reach next summer’s finals in Italy and San Marino. Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, Tammy Abraham of Chelsea, Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke and Harry Winks of Spurs also feature in Aidy Boothroyd’s 26 man squad. Tickets for the match, which takes place on Tuesday (kick-off 6pm) are priced £10 and £5.