Reading v Sheffield United: ‘We need to prove the gaffer wrong’ says Billy Sharp

Shadowed: Billy Sharp, watched by Hull City's Max Clark, says the Blades deserved a reprimand from manager Chris Wilder.

SHEFFIELD UNITED captain Billy Sharp insists that manager Chris Wilder was well within his rights to deliver a stinging and public rebuke to his players after Friday night’s loss at Hull City and believes it represents “good man-management”.

The Blades’ chief could not disguise his fury following the insipid 1-0 defeat in East Yorkshire, when he stated that his side could forget about the Championship play-offs.

After a weekend to reflect on his critical comments, an unrepentant Wilder – whose side visit struggling Reading this evening – stressed that his views had not changed, having thrown down the gauntlet to his players ahead of the trip to Berkshire.

Sharp, facing one of his former clubs, said: “I think it was good man-management. We deserved a rollicking – and it also put the pressure on the other teams.

“The gaffer was angry and he had every right to be because we did not take a big opportunity. But I knew what he would be like beforehand.

“We got warned by the gaffer that it was the biggest game of the season, but we knew that anyway. It was a disappointing result and performance from everyone. They (Hull) wanted it more than us.

“We just have to make sure that we want it more than Reading. If we do, then hopefully our quality will shine through.

“The gaffer said in the press exactly what he told us. He is not one of those who tells the press one thing and then something different to us. He was fed-up because he has been driving us for a season now. It is time for us to give him something back.

“The boys have come in with a smile on their faces because we have got an opportunity to put what happened behind us.”

Having openly questioned his players in such stark terms, and their play-off aspirations in the process, Wilder is the first to acknowledge that he would be delighted if they proved him wrong, starting at Reading.

The gaffer was fed-up because he has been driving us for a season now. It is time for us to give him something back.

Blades captain Billy Sharp

A fierce defender of his charges when they adhere to the requisite standards he expects and display the right mentality – whatever the result – Wilder has also created a grown-up culture where criticism has to be taken on the chin when it is given.

The comments of his captain suggest that the players know the script and that it is up to them to put things right.

Wilder, whose side can return to the play-off positions with victory tonight, said: “Welcome to the real world. I am not saying they are useless or they cannot do their job because they can and they have. But it has come to a point where I think it needed saying and if they prove me wrong then it will be brilliant.

“I am not going to have conversations about geeing players up again. It has to be player-led. They talk about their team spirit; let’s see it. They talk about being good enough; let’s see it. They talk about their ethic; let’s see it. Let people see it, me included. I am the biggest supporter of my players.

“People say you are in danger of losing the dressing room if you criticise the players. Rubbish. I’m not there to be their best mate. I have got my pals.

“In any other walk of life if you do not do your job or you do it poorly you get questioned.

“If you do that here you will get questioned and your place in the team will be questioned. I will defend them if I think people are harsh on them, as I have done before. But I will not after that.”

Wilder has scotched speculation that Tottenham Hotspur are in talks to sign top prospect David Brooks.

“Nobody has spoken to me about Brooksy from Spurs”, Wilder commented.

“We have got a good relationship with Spurs and if there was something going on I am sure they would have contacted me out of courtesy.”

Last six games: Reading LWLLDD Sheffield United LLWLWL.

Referee: A Davies (Hampshire).

Last time: Reading 4 Sheffield United 0; January 26, 2013; FA Cup.

More from Sport