It might lead to more accusations that old fashioned methods are driving Sheffield United’s success but, according to one member of the squad which sits second in the Championship, Chris Wilder’s decision to organise regular team nights out proves he fully understands his managerial brief.
Chris Basham, the United defender, revealed the 50-year-old and his coaching staff actively encourage players to socialise together when the opportunity allows.
Although some might regard it as out-dated, Basham believes the policy is responsible for developing the esprit de corps which saw last season’s League One title winners enter the international break second in the table and only two points behind leaders Wolves.
“It’s a great time to have a bit of family time because we don’t get many Friday or Saturdays off,” he said.”The gaffer might say he wants us to have some social time together, he likes to keep the boys together because he knows it brings good morale and things like that. Seriously, it’s important. But we also work hard.”
Wilder has expressed his frustration in recent weeks that United, who have won 11 of their 16 outings since being promoted, are often portrayed as an old-school club. Speaking after Saturday’s 4-1 meeting with Hull City, he revealed how studying Manchester City’s attack helped inspire the 4-1 win over Leonid Slutsky’s side.
Echoing those sentiments, Basham also explained video analysis sessions and performance-related data are helping United compete with and beat many of their big-spending rivals. But, rather than sneer at Wilder’s determination to ensure his players socialise together, Basham insisted it has been an inspired move.
“Listen, we aren’t going out and getting steaming drunk,” he said. “It’s more like the skipper (Billy Sharp) getting all of us and our families together for a meal or something.
“All the girls know each other now, all the dads and mums know each other now. Success helps, yes, but the gaffer and the skipper have always really encouraged it. When you’re as close as we all are, that means you fight for each other out there on the pitch. I know all of the lads here have got my back and they know I have got their backs too.”
“Having the families knowing each other, it creates a great feeling among us all,” Basham continued. “My son knows ‘The Greasy Chip Butty’ song now and he always will.”
With Daniel Lafferty and David Brooks away with Northern Ireland and Wales respectively, United began preparing for November 17th’s visit to Burton Albion earlier this week.
Shedding further light on how Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill combine tradition with science on the training ground, Basham said: “We get match highlights sent to our phones in the group that we’ve got. It’s important that you get the details out there as soon as you can.
“Even thought it might be on a day off with your family, you can usually find 10 minutes or so to sit down and look at them. Last season, we had it if we wanted it but this season, we’ve really brought it in.”
“We train at 100 per cent,” he added. “If someone gets injured in training, then so be it. We don’t take a step back, the gaffer and his assistant Knilly want us to take steps forward, and everyone has taken that on, including the young lads who come up to train with us. Everybody has bought into it.”