Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes Hull City’s amazing run of form illustrates how open this season’s race is to reach the Premier League.
The Tigers have won six successive games in the Championship – unbeaten in nine – to rocket up the table, transforming what looked like a relegation battle into a promotion challenge.
Hull were second-bottom with just 16 points from 18 games after they lost at home to Nottingham Forest on November 24.
But since then manager Nigel Adkins’s side have won 23 out of a possible 27 points to go 10th, just four points adrift of sixth-placed Derby County.
Hull beat Championship leaders Leeds United 2-0 at Elland Road, held third-placed Norwich City to a 0-0 draw and thrashed Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 last weekend.
Blades chief Wilder believes Hull’s run of results is a reminder – not just to teams languishing outside of the top 10, but those ensconced in the promotion battle – of how quickly fortunes can shift.
“I still think that there is a hell of a lot to play for,” said Wilder. “There are still teams that will say, ‘we can win four, five or six successive games and get in there’.
“Hull are a great example of what can happen in this division. They have won six games on the spin and are now talking about the play-offs and automatic promotion.
“If that was talked about over in East Yorkshire maybe three months ago people would have looked at each other a bit silly. But that’s what can happen.
“Everyone will look at that and we will too. You have to keep playing well and picking up points because you can easily move out of the position you hold if you don’t do that.
“There will be many twists and turns throughout the remainder of the season.
“There is not a Wolves in the Championship this year, it’s going to be a tight division, and anyone can still finish in any position between now and the end of the season.”
Wilder’s second-placed Blades travel tomorrow to a Swansea City side marooned in 13th place in the Championship.
Wilder believes Graham Potter’s team, relegated from the Premier League last season, will still harbour hopes of a late play-off challenge.
“Swansea are another club who you look through the team sheet and you are very impressed with the individuals,” he said.
“They are in a bit of a transition, and I think I said the same thing about Hull City. Any time they can click.
“I am not trying to be clever, but they have an experienced manager in Nigel, who we know well. Their run of form and the players they have got, something goes for them and they are off and running.
“The manager at Swansea is a successful one, and you look at the raw talent they have got in the group and they are a very competitive team.
“I would imagine they are looking for the consistency between now and the end of the season to push them into the play-off positions.”
United’s experience in the Championship this season means they will not underestimate the Swans.
Last month the Blades were held to a 1-1 draw at bottom-of-the-table Ipswich Town, while Wilder rates the 2-2 draw at strugglers Rotherham United as their toughest away game of the season.
“That day was a real tough one where we were second best for the majority of that game,” recalled Wilder.
“Our toughest away game, by quite a distance, was Rotherham United.
“Anybody who walked into that game, and possibly a few of the players from our point of view, thought they would win quite easy.
“They are a team who is expected to just stay in the division. So, we are expecting Swansea to be really good, they have good players, and us to carry on our current form.”
United have brought in striker Gary Madine and Kieran Dowell on loan this month, and Wilder has not ruled out further activity in the January transfer window.
He said: “There might be one or two going out that have not been involved. There may be one or two coming in.
“I think it will ramp up in the last week, which is crazy really how everything gets left to the last minute.
“There will be a snowball effect where some move and everyone works off the back of that.
“We are delighted with what we have done so far, with Kieran and Gary coming in, they have certainly strengthened the group.
“If we don’t make any additions, and don’t let anybody out of the building, we will work with what we have got to achieve something at the back end of the season. We are being creative in what we try to do, but making sure the numbers are right. We are not just bringing in players for the sake of it to boost the numbers. We are bringing players in to improve.”