SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder has acknowledged that the December programme represents a huge part of the Blades’ campaign – and a potentially decisive factor in their season’s outcome.
Six matches unbeaten, Wilder’s side are sitting pretty ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Wolves and boast the only unbeaten away record in the top-flight along with leaders and title favourites Liverpool.
But with a hectic run to the turn of the year and start of 2020, with the Blades playing eight games in 32 days up to and including the January 2 trip to Anfield, the Blades chief is aware that fates can quickly change.
That was underlined by the Premier League experiences of Yorkshire neighbours Huddersfield Town 12 months ago, with a disastrous run of eight successive losses proving the season-defining facet of a grim campaign.
Wilder, whose side also face Newcastle United on Thursday before travelling to Norwich City a week tomorrow, said: “It is a huge part of the season and recovery and preparation is huge.
“One of the things we have talked about in the Premier League is the intensity of it. Even though it is isn’t Saturday-Tuesday like the Championship, it feels just as intense and that is obviously going to ramp up now in terms of the games coming thick and fast.
It is important we have a healthy total going into the New Year and obviously it is key.Chris Wilder
“You talk about our squad and looking at it from an energy point of view as well, the likes of Callum (Robinson), Oli McBurnie and Billy (Sharp) and all the boys have got to be ready to go due to injuries and suspensions.
“This is a huge part of the season.
“Every game is massive, but going into this period if we can keep our current form, picking up points and adding to the total, you go into the New Year and that goes super-quick. It is important we have a healthy total going into the New Year and obviously it is key.”
Wilder’s troops head to the Midlands with confidence high after an outstanding display and late response in Sunday’s game with Manchester United.
It saw the Blades conjure a dramatic injury-time leveller from McBurnie, with the club-record buy – who recently appeared in court charged with drink driving – seeing his name in the headlines for the right reasons after coming off the bench to score.
It also boosted the one-time Bradford City forward’s claims of extended involvement this month, according to his manager.
“There is a lot on him (McBurnie),” said Wilder, who has John Egan and Lys Mousset available tomorrow, while Dean Henderson returns after being ineligible against parent club Manchester United last week.
“With our punters, one of the most popular songs is still his, it shows what they think of him.
“To score for forwards is key and there is obviously a couple of things that have happened off the pitch recently which have not really helped him.
“But he has shown what he is about and at the moment, it is Didzy (David McGoldrick) and Lys (Mousset).
“But you have seen the effect Bill, Oli and Callum have on the team when they come on and we are trying to take something from a game or try and win a game of football.
“It will have done him (McBurnie) the world of good.
“You saw delight in his face and his celebration and then scratching his head for the next couple of minutes to see if it was correct. Everybody was delighted for Oli.
“It is two goals he has got now and he is going along nicely and putting huge pressure on the two boys (McGoldrick and Mousset) at the moment.”
Alongside the strong intervention from the substitute’s bench last weekend, crowned by McGoldrick’s leveller, Wilder is hoping that John Fleck’s goal also represents a sign of things to come, having stressed the importance of his midfield department chipping in on the goalscoring front in the days and weeks ahead.
He added: “Even though we go game to game, there are certain targets we have for the midfield.
“They cannot just leave it to the boys at the top of the pitch, they all have to chip in with goals.
“It is important that especially Flecky and Lunny (John Lundstram) drive the game forward for us and try and fill the box for us.”
Callum Robinson: Page 3