NEW signing Matt Hill last night urged Sheffield United to ‘keep calm’ if they want to finish the job of winning promotion.
The race for second spot in the League One table is wide open again after the Blades suffered three defeats in four games.
Only two weeks ago, the Blades had an opportunity to move eight points clear of the chasing pack – with two games in hand – but are now just a point clear of third-placed Sheffield Wednesday.
Hill, who won promotion to the Premier League with Wolves three years ago, has joined the Blades on loan from Blackpool until the end of the season.
He made his debut as a centreback against Walsall in midweek but is set to revert to his preferred left-back role at Brentford tomorrow thanks to the return of Harry Maguire from suspension.
Assessing the mounting pressure on the Blades, Hill said: “I was involved in a promotion fight at Wolves so I know how tough it can be sometimes to get over the line. The secret is to stay calm and make sure you enjoy it.
“After a couple of bad results, it can be more of a mental thing you have to get over – so we just have to keep on believing in ourselves and what we are doing.”
The Blades had won 11 league games out of 13 prior to the Steel City derby on February 26 but have subequently lost to the Owls, Oldham Athletic and Walsall. The only victory in the last four games has come against 10-man Scunthorpe United.
“We are all capable players here, it just seems we have got a bit edgy,” said Hill. “Before I arrived, the team had been on a great run and there is no reason why we cannot go on another one now.
“The boys are bubbly despite the last couple of results but it’s important that we bounce back against Brentford.”
Hill, 30, spent nine months in South Yorkshire with Barnsley last season but was released in the summer after the departure of manager Mark Robins.
Any disappointment swiftly turned to joy when he landed a one-year deal at Blackpool – who had just been relegated from the Premier League – however he has only made five appearances for the Seasiders.
“It has been difficult to get a game at Blackpool, not least because Ian Holloway has a squad of around 35 players,” he reflects. “A lot of players who were expected to leave when the club went down have ended up staying.
“All I am focusing on now is doing well for Sheffield United for the rest of the season and we will see what happens from there. If I do well, there might be an opportunity for me here. On the other hand, it’s a chance to show Ian Holloway that I can do a job for Blackpool.”
Blades manager Danny Wilson is no stranger to Hill’s qualities as the pair worked together previously for four years at Bristol City.
Wilson moved for the left-back after losing Haiti international Lescinel Jean-Francois for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Against Walsall, the Blades were also without banned pair Matt Lowton and Maguire while centre-back Neill Collins was absent due to personal issues.
Hill was plunged into action along with another new arrival, Sunderland’s John Egan who has joined the Blades on a month’s loan.
“Obviously I was disappointed to start off with a defeat but, on a personal level, I really enjoyed the chance to play again,” he reflected.
“It’s always a bit difficult when you come into a new club on match-day because the first thing you have to do is remember the names of all your new team-mates. I am a left-back by trade but the boss played me at centrehalf.
“To be quite honest, I will play wherever he wants me to play but I felt I was at fault for their second goal. Hopefully we can get that out of the system and push on.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to play football again,” he admitted. “When a big club that is going places comes in for you, it is a no-brainer.
“It’s a chance for me to showcase my talents to both Blackpool and Sheffield United. And it is a lot better to be up there pushing for promotion than fighting relegation at the other end of the table.”
The Blades have developed a healthy relationship with Blackpool this season and Hill is the third player to arrive on loan from Bloomfield Road this season. Matt Phillips and Billy Clarke both made good impressions during their stays in October and, naturally, Hill is hoping to follow suit.
“Matt did fantastic here and kicked on afterwards, he’s still doing well for Blackpool,” he said. “I hope I can achieve something close to what he did and in the process keep this club in the automatic promotion places.”
Manager Wilson, meanwhile, admitted that previous knowledge of Hill was a major factor in bringing about the move.
“I worked with Matt at Bristol City and new what a whole-hearted, committed, and fantastic team player he is,” said Wilson. “He’s great to have around in the dressing room and will do well for us on the pitch. He’s got a great attitude and I can’t ever remember seeing him without a smile on his face.”
The Blades are boosted by the return of Maguire, Lowton, and the fit-again Marcus Williams for tomorrow’s game but midfielder Kevin McDonald (hamstring) is out and Collins unavilable.