The performance delighted him, especially before the interval.
But as Chris Wilder waxed lyrical about Sheffield United’s display against Bristol City, his also felt a sharp pang of regret. Because, barring their landslide win over Hull and September’s victory at Hillsborough, it had taken his team until the final match of the season to do something which, had they managed it earlier, would probably have delivered a play-off berth.
“We dominated the possession and we made that count,” he said, after watching United establish a 3-0 lead at the break. “We controlled the game and you could tell that by the scoreboard. It was brilliant, really good, to sit back and watch.”
Few teams, if any, created more clear cut chances than United throughout the last Championship campaign. The trouble was, despite taking their top six challenge until its penultimate match, only a handful were probably more profligate. Struggling to translate territory into goals has probably been United biggest failing over the past 10 months. So, despite the uncertainty surrounding his position because of an ownership battle behind the scenes, Wilder will regard the first half at Ashton Gate as a template for next term. The DVD will probably be on a continuous loop when, hopefully with him at the helm, United resume training this summer.
It seems strange that, despite boasting the joint-best attacking partnership in the division, United stand accused of being far too generous the opposition’s defence. Only Famara Diédhiou and Bobby Reid, who spurned a series of openings against United five days ago, have combined to produce as many goals as Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp. Yet, despite admitting Bramall Lane’s boardroom politicking could force him out of the club, United supporters concerned by Wilder’s comment can take heart from the fact he has already taken steps to ensure United develop a ruthless streak. Although first team opportunities have proved in short supply since a January move from Charlton Athletic, the signing of Ricky Holmes represents a move to improve returns from midfield. That department produced only 15 league goals throughout 2017/18. Holmes, who netted on 13 occasions the season before, arrived in South Yorkshire having netted six times in his previous 26 appearances. Mark Duffy, David Brooks and John Fleck also possess the skill sets to contribute more.
“We’ve got a good base to build on,” Wilder said. “We’ve got to keep pushing though, not settling for what we’ve got and looking to get better. That goes for all of us, players and staff, because that’s how it works.”
Wilder’s ability to put his plans into effect could depend upon the outcome of a meeting between co-owners Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud which, The Star understands, has been scheduled for early next week. Although a number of different factors could force a change of date, the two have agreed to sit down and talk about their respective bids for sole control face-to-face.
Speaking towards the end of last month, Wilder highlighted how events in the boardroom can impact upon results, saying: “I just need to know where we are going. Is one taking over? Are they working together? What is the expectation? What do you want to achieve? I just want to know that. “There’s no way we can stand still because if we do then we’ll move backwards. That’s something I don’t want to happen.”