Sheffield United enjoyed a fantastic season last time around, securing an unlikely promotion to the Premier League. Manager Chris Wilder deserves a huge amount of credit for guiding his side to automatic promotion.
Not only has Wilder brought tangible success to Bramall Lane, he has also cultivated an exciting, attacking brand of football at the club. However, now he is in the top flight, he faces the sternest test of his career so far.
The Yorkshire club could not afford to spend wildly in the summer, though they did strengthen in some key areas. However, Wilder’s squad does not boast huge amounts of previous Premier League experience.
Wilder is well aware that avoiding relegation will be a tough task. In his recent press conference, as quoted by Football.London, the Blades boss said, “we are not a club that has been knocking on the door of the Premier League for four, five or six years…I would think we are one of the biggest favourites to go down in a number of years. That’s not an issue with us”.
Much like Cardiff City did in 2017/18, Sheffield United defied expectations to achieve promotion last season. Throughout last season, Neil Warnock consistently maintained that his Cardiff side were the underdogs in the Premier League survival scrap. Despite a valiant effort, the Bluebirds could not ultimately avoid the drop.
Wilder’s similar assessment of the Blades’ prospects is perhaps accurate. However, he risks damaging his side’s confidence. Realism must strike an ideal balance with belief and aspiration in his dressing room. How Wilder conducts himself in the press could affect that balance. Warnock’s stance seemed quite defeatist from the off, Wilder might be wise to take a more bullishly optimistic approach.