Chris Wilder last night insisted Sheffield United’s most recent performances have vindicated his decision to gut Bramall Lane’s first team squad after taking charge earlier this summer.
United enter today’s match against AFC Wimbledon hoping to complete a hat-trick of League One wins following victories over Gillingham and Oxford.
Although Wilder admitted that not scoring the first goal is threatening to become an issue for his side - “It’s something we must learn to do. It puts a different complexion on things.” - he argued the fact they have come from behind in both games suggests United are now better equipped to deal with the psychological challenges of a 46 match season.
“What gives me great delight is the sight of players wanting to work hard and wanting to play for the shirt,” Wilder said. “Not going under when things are going against them and never giving up the fight because, without that attitude, you’ve got nothing.
“Even our most critical of supporters will see that we are making progress. But there is always short-termism so we’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep that approach.”
Wilder described United’s failure to win last season when the opposition had scored first as “ridiculous” when the statistic was relayed to him on Thursday. But the decision to sign 12 new players and release more than 10 since being appointed manager confirms suspicions he thought a lack of character, not calibre, was behind United’s 11th placed finish under his predecessor Nigel Adkins.
Despite suffering a chequered start to Wilder’s reign - United took only a point from their opening four fixtures - they travel to Kingsmeadow confident of recording another positive outcome.
“We didn’t beat ourselves up during the first four or five games when we weren’t getting the results we all desperately want,” Wilder continued. “We made good starts in all of them and it was a bit head-scratching at times to come in a goal down after doing well enough to be on top or at least level. But you’ve got to keep believing and now we are deservedly getting our rewards.”
United, who are 17th in the table, expect to have a near fully fit squad at their disposal for the meeting with AFC Wimbledon although striker Caolan Lavery will again miss out.
Neil Ardley’s team, who beat Chesterfield last weekend, could include former United players Lyle Taylor and Dominic Poleon in their starting eleven.
“I’ve maintained all along, we recognise and respect every opponent,” Wilder said. “So we’ll do what we think is required to get a result. We changed system at Gillingham because thought it was best for that game, for the players we had in form and who were available. But the principles never change.”