VICTORY tonight will take Sheffield United back into the automatic promotion places and manager Chris Wilder believes the reconnection between fans and players can make that happen.
The Blades are unbeaten in 15 league games, a run that has taken the club from bottom of League One to third place with a game in hand on all their rivals at the top.
Walsall’s visit for a game postponed last month due to international call-ups is set to attract another bumper crowd to Bramall Lane as United look to claim a ninth straight league win on home soil.
Those runs, together with the effort and energy that the players have expended this season, have made the Lane a much happier place to be and Wilder believes this can be a big factor against the Saddlers.
“The crowd, I think, has connected with the team because of the non-negotiables we’ve got,” he said ahead of the only League One fixture taking place between now and December 10.
“They are work ethic, commitment, the togetherness and the desire to keep going right until the end. The fans are a massive part of the football club.
“Players come and go, but supporters will always be here. They are the heartbeat of the club. Last Saturday, that wasn’t Chesterfield away or Bradford away where we were playing. That was London, a three- or four-hour journey away, and yet there were 3,500 supporters there.
“I think they are happy with how things are going and the things we are trying to do. So we have to learn from the experience we had down there.
“We have to take advantage of our superb crowd. I know there can be a moan and a groan at times, I understand that. But, as I have maintained all along, they are giving the players the best possible opportunity to perform.”
Jake Wright will be absent tonight after being forced out of the weekend draw at The Valley with a hamstring problem but, importantly, there was no tear.
Walsall triumphed 2-1 in the Checkatrade Trophy at the Lane last month, and Wilder added: “If I was a betting man, I would say they are going to come and have a go. Walsall are very open and like to move the ball.”
Last six games: Sheffield United WWWWWD, Walsall LWDLLD.
Referee: D England (South Yorkshire).
Last time: Sheffield United 1 Walsall 2; October 4, 2016; Football League Trophy.