AHEAD OF today’s eagerly anticipated Yorkshire derby, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes the county could be heading for a golden end to the season.
The Blades head to Leeds United for a lunchtime kick-off that could have huge ramifications for the Championship promotion race.
One of the features of Sheffield is they attack without stopping defending and they defend without stopping attacking.Marcelo Bielsa
Victory for Leeds will open a five-point advantage over their rivals from down the M1, while Wilder’s men avenging their December loss will be enough to see them return to the top two.
But it is not just today’s combatants at Elland Road who can help turn 2018-19 into a campaign to remember for the White Rose county.
“It has just been a smattering (of success) hasn’t it in recent years?” Wilder reflected to The Yorkshire Post. “Hull have had time in the Premier League. Huddersfield as well.
“But to get two (back up) would be big. Football is an enormous part of people’s lives in this region, you can see that from the attendances.
“You see it here at Sheffield United, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Bradford. Rotherham, it will be a fantastic achievement if they stay in the Championship.
“Barnsley look like they are going to come up (from League One) – and, hopefully, my old club Bradford City can stop up.
“We all have our moments but this can be a very powerful region.”
Leeds triumphed 1-0 when the teams met at Bramall Lane earlier in the season, a mistake by Dean Henderson presenting Pablo Hernandez with a chance he gleefully took.
Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa was pleased to edge a hard-fought encounter but he admits to being impressed by both Wilder and the Blades.
“Teams say a lot about the head coach they have,” said the Argentinian. “I have learned a lot about Sheffield United. It is the team from which I have learned the most this season.
“They have a new style of playing. They have been faithful to their style all season. Each player is giving the best of himself.
“One of the features of Sheffield is they attack without stopping defending and they defend without stopping attacking.
“If you have a look at the players of Sheffield before this season, you see clearly the evolution. When we won against them it was a hard win and we probably didn’t deserve to win.”
Pontus Jansson, the Leeds United defender, earlier this week urged the home supporters to be at Elland Road an hour before kick-off to ramp up the atmosphere.
The Swede’s thinking may have been influenced by lunchtime kick-offs often being played out in front of a subdued crowd but Wilder expects Elland Road to be bouncing.
“The time won’t make a difference,” said the lifelong Blades fan. “They will ramp it up. But we have got players who can handle the occasion. We have got staff who have been in it, too.
“You can talk about the atmosphere but it doesn’t change what happens on the pitch, so long as you play the game, not the occasion.”
On the rivalry that exists between Leeds and not only the Blades but also Steel City neighbours Wednesday, Wilder continued: “There is a rivalry between the two biggest cities in the county.
“It goes back a long way. When teams are doing well, there is quite a lot of jealousy involved. That is going back to the Sixties and Seventies. They (Don Revie’s Leeds) weren’t just ‘Kings of Yorkshire’ but top dogs in the country – and into Europe as well.”
As for Jansson’s call for fans to get there early, Wilder joked: “I can never work that out when, nearly two hours before the game, you always see a bloke sat behind the goal.
“I think ‘You could have had six or seven (pints) in that time you have been sitting there’.”
Derby preview: Page 3