Watch Out You Lot, We Are on the Way! – Sheffield United Pre-Season Report
Wednesday, 26th Jul 2017 12:30 by HarryFromBath
In the sixth of a series of pre-season reports, HarryfromBath assesses the mood around the Championship clubs by delving into their forums, looking here at how things have progressed for the promoted Blades this summer. All of the teams in the division will be covered by the start of the season.
“We’re on the march with Wilder’s Army”, “We have a team on honest players who, like you and me, can see so much wrong with the Premier League and Championship, players who yearn to have a crack at all that is wrong with modern-day football spoiled by cash. Watch out – here we come!”
Confidence is high at Bramall Lane. Last season’s 19-game unbeaten run to the League One title has been followed by five pre-season wins on the spin. “We are a new formula, a new brand, on our way to the Premier League. We have momentum and we have all our young players to come in yet.”
“I accept we will be up against better players but have confidence in how we set up”, “I’m absolutely convinced that top League One and League Two players can compete at mid-table Premier League level. I am equally convinced that Chris Wilder won’t become a big time Charlie and alter his approach.”
“I have loved Wilder the Blade for decades. The man knows football. He knows proper footballers aren’t necessarily the big earners, they are the first names on the teamsheet. Put six of them in one team and you can outdo any foreign manager who looks at players’ big wages and reputations.”
“Chris is clearly someone who understands football players and teams.” Blades love the 49-year-old who returned to his boyhood club in May 2016 and steered them back to the Championship after a six-year absence. He is praised for his good footballing judgement and for picking players on merit.
“Wilder’s mantra is simple. Earn a place in the team and you are in. The squad battle for places day in day out. If you impress more than the usual choices you are selected”, “It’s working for us so far and hopefully our fanbase can give him plenty of time if we make a dodgy start to the season.”
“Wilder is the motivator, [assistant manager] Alan Knill is the technician”, “It’s a good job we have allowed Wilder and Knill to manage United. The pair of them connect where football is concerned”, “Knill knows tactically what a player can do and Wilder knows how to motivate him to go and do it.”
Cherry Picking from the Lower Leagues
“I couldn’t be happier with Wilder’s recruitment policy. We are cherry-picking the best players and leaders from some very good clubs.” With a focus on lower-league acquisitions, Blades are confident that Wilder’s eight years of lower-league managerial experience will pay dividends in this window.
“We are recruiting quality players with more targets still to go for.” Three new signings to strengthen the defensive line are left-back Enda Stevens, 26, from Portsmouth, right-back George Baldock, 24, from Milton Keynes and 29-year-old former Town loan signing Richard Stearman from Fulham.
Midfield has seen the addition of 22-year-old Nathan Thomas from Hartlepool and this week there was the arrival of 23-year-old midfielder and last season’s Oxford United captain John Lundstram.
Up front, team captain Billy Sharp agreed a two-year extension to his contract, while former striker Ched Evans returned from Chesterfield in May.
Out of contract striker Marc McNulty has moved to Coventry, midfielder Stefan Scougall has joined St Johnstone and winger Matt Done has been linked with a move to Rochdale having been told that he can leave. The club have also allowed five other players to move to lower-league sides on loan.
A Winning Pre-Season Run
“It may be wrong to conclude from friendlies, but judging by the Malaga and Stoke matches, our football from last season seems to work against higher level teams as well”, “We don’t know what the future holds but I have always felt that our style from last year will do very well this season.”
After an opening 9-0 romp against Stocksbridge Park Steels, United travelled to Spain and beat La Liga side Malaga 1-0. Their return to England has seen them pick up consecutive 2-1 victories away at Chesterfield and Rotherham, and also finally at home to Premier League Stoke on Tuesday.
The starting XI against Stoke (above) was set out with the wing-back system which was a hallmark of last season’s promotion run. There has been some debate among Blades as to whether they play with two strikers with one dropping off or two attacking midfielders playing behind a lone striker.
One injury which occurred in their win at Rotherham was a knee problem for first-choice keeper Simon Moore. Academy keeper Jake Eastwood played well after coming on against the Millers and starting against Stoke, but most Blades expect the club to find a more experienced replacement.
“Wilder will make us tough to beat, especially away from home.” The shape of the team resembles Simon Grayson’s Preston just after their promotion. The back three are shielded in central midfield by two from Paul Coutts, John Lundstram and John Fleck, the latter linking with the attacking trio.
The starting line-up against the Millers (above) was similar to the one for the Stoke game. With controversial re-signing Evans having been missing with a hip problem, there has been a pre-season debate around the best strike partner for ‘Captain Fantastic’ Billy Sharp, seen as “the best finisher at the club, but he lacks pace and depends on others to create chances for him most of the time”.
“[Former Town youngster] Caolan Lavery is young, fit and fast, and is all about pace and direct play but the real bright spot for us is David Brooks”, “Brooks has been the start of the pre-season so far.” The 20-year-old attacking midfielder capped an outstanding run of pre-season form by scoring the late winner against Stoke.
Confidence and Belief
“Tonight’s win over Stoke really just strengthen my belief that we will surprise a few this year”, “We have a group of players who look very hungry to me and they're all showing that they want to battle for the shirt. I have no doubts regarding quality, spirit, fight, strength or even goals in the squad.”
“There is the quiet sense among Blades that they are as well-prepared as they will ever be after six years away from the Championship. “We still need that bit of first team quality in attack but overall we'll be totally fine this season”, “Next season we'll be right in my opinion. Can't bloody wait now!”
The busiest Blades’ message board is the lively and friendly S24SU.com.
Photo: Action Images
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