Ask Chris Wilder or any of his Sheffield United players to look too far into the future and they instantly lapse into an almost robotic mode.
“We’re just taking it game by game,” said Enda Stevens in yesterday’s pre-match press conference, but it could have been any Sheffield United player at almost any time, really.
When it comes to his team for tomorrow’s Premier League trip to Manchester City, though, Wilder will have to break his golden rule and get ahead of himself.
There has been a reassuring predictability about Wilder’s team selections this season. Dean Henderson, Chris Basham, John Egan, Jack O’Connell, George Baldock, John Lundstram, Oliver Norwood, John Fleck and Stevens have played if available. David McGoldrick has started 10 of the last 11. But having hosted Watford on Boxing Day, and with a trip to Anfield on Thursday, there could yet be a surprise in tomorrow’s line-up, and a test of the true strength of their squad.
“Sometimes you have to think ahead in this little period and we have done,” said Wilder. “You try and plot your way through busy periods.
“We haven’t needed to for most of the season because of the Saturday-Saturday schedule but we did for the Newcastle game, which is difficult at times for people to understand – not so much the players.”
When the games come thick and fast like they are doing now it’s important we plot our way through so there will be one eye on the Liverpool game and further forward as well.Chris Wilder
The Watford game was only the Blades’ fourth midweek match this season, and they have only won one – a League Cup tie at Blackburn Rovers.
It shows that even for players who earned their stripes in the Football League, the demands of twice-a-week Premier League football are high and it is why Wilder will be pushing his board for the funds to add strength in depth in the January transfer window. He added: “You have to do it because of the intensity of the division and everyone has the same scenarios.”
“All managers have to plot through game by game – who you’re playing against, who’s out of form, who has little issues injury-wise or whatever.
“When the games come thick and fast like they are doing now it’s important we plot our way through so there will be one eye on the Liverpool game and further forward as well.”