Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has reassured Billy Sharp about his status at Bramall Lane, admitting he made a mistake by not playing the centre-forward during the Steel City derby.
Wilder, speaking ahead of today’s Championship fixture at Norwich City, revealed he met Sharp immediately after the match to explain the thinking behind his selection policy.
Although it remains unclear if the 31-year-old will start the meeting with Daniel Farke’s side, Wilder said: “Do you know what? I’m not too big to say maybe I made a bit of a mistake there. It was a difficult situation because of the flow at the game at that time.
“I wanted to get Willo (James Wilson) on, because he’d looked really sharp in training. I made that decision and felt, from a football point of view, that it was right. Maybe I should have got Billy on as well and gone three up top.
“My only concern was that I didn’t want to change the shape of the team because it gave us a base to launch wave after wave of attacks. Okay, we got caught on the counter and, fair play, they showed the energy to get up the pitch. But, fair play, analysing it afterwards, maybe I made a mistake.”
United’s decision to leave Sharp on the bench during last week’s goalless draw against Sheffield Wednesday raised eyebrows among supporters and commentators alike, particularly as the scoreline means they travel to Norfolk having won only twice in 11 outings.
Wilder, whose team nevertheless climbed to sixth in the table, added: “We felt we were on top and that it was coming. I kept saying to Al (assistant manager Alan Knill): ‘We’re one move or ball off a goal here.’ But you live and learn and I spoke to Billy afterwards. I’ve got to take individual situations out of it and try to make the right decision. You try and make more right than wrong but maybe that was one I didn’t get right.”
Sharp, United’s captain and leading goalscorer last term, is competing with Clayton Donaldson and the on-loan Wilson for a place alongside Leon Clarke.