Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder still has no regrets about questioning his team’s promotion credentials, despite acknowledging their Premier League hopes are still alive.
Wilder, whose side visit fourth-placed Fulham tonight, claimed he must have been “away with the fairies” to talk-up United’s hopes of reaching the end of season play-offs following last month’s defeat by Hull City.
Although an emphatic victory over Reading only four days later meant they travelled to London knowing a win could see them climb back to sixth, Wilder said: “We’ve got to go again. I’m not going to just change my tune. I said those words because I believed them, not because I was trying to be clever.
“The players have got to go and do it again. The teams that do it, that achieve and get to where they want to be, are the ones who go again.”
Speaking immediately after United’s trip to the KCOM Stadium, Wilder also warned his players would be “on their own” for the remainder of the campaign after criticising their approach in East Yorkshire. Having tasked assistant Alan Knill with performing post-match duties at the Madejski Stadium, his mood had changed during yesterday’s media briefing. But the 50-year-old’s message remained the same.
“Take me out of it,” he continued. “Do it for yourself, do it for the football club and do it for the fans. We’ve given them the information on Fulham, as we have 23 other teams, and set them up. I’m not asking for anybody to run around. I’m not going to ask it. If you don’t do it on a consistent basis then you won’t play and you won’t be at this football club.”
Wilder, admitting he was disappointed that last weekend’s game against Burton Albion had been postponed, added: “They don’t have to just prove a point once. They have to prove it over a period. They’ve got to prove me wrong, with the statement I made, and keep going.
“If I don’t have to say anything more between now and the end of the season then we’re in with a shout. It’s not talking to the media, talking to themselves or in the changing room, it’s what they do when they step out on the pitch.”
Although Wilder described Fulham as serious top two contenders - “Cardiff are the second best team behind (leaders) Wolves at the moment but I wouldn’t be surprised if they pushed really close” - he insisted United also possess the character and calibre to maintain a challenge for the top-flight.
“There’s been talk about adversity, being up against it, the business end,” he said. “If you want to be a top player, you love this time of the year. It’s game on and this is when players really do show what they’re about.
“Our group has been brought together in a different way to possibly a lot of the others. But I don’t see that as a stumbling block. They talk about it enough. Now produce and take it on another step.”