SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder has hailed the manner in which his players continue to defy the financial odds in pushing for the Premier League just two years after winning promotion from the third tier.
The Blades will move back into second place by beating Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane in today’s lunchtime kick-off.
A home victory will leave Leeds United, who are three points clear of their rivals from down the M1 but have an inferior goal difference, needing to respond later in the afternoon at home to Wigan Athletic.
If Wilder’s side prevail in the two-way Yorkshire scrap for automatic promotion, they will join Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bournemouth in rising from League One to the top flight in the past half-a-dozen years.
Both those two clubs made the leap on the back of significant investment in the transfer market, something that contrasts sharply with the south Yorkshire outfit, who have banked more than has been spent on signings since winning promotion in 2017.
“That helps, with Fosun (International Group, the owners of Wolves) and a Russian billionaire (Maxim Denim, the Bournemouth owner),” said Wilder, when asked about the challenge of reaching the Premier League just a couple of years after leaving the third tier.
“It is tough to win games at any stage of the season and it is tough when you do not have the scale of backing some of the others have. That is a fact
“Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United and Manchester City win the Premier League 99 times out of a 100 because of that backing. There was a team a few miles down the M1 (Leicester) who broke it up but, in years to come, people will shake their head and wonder how that happened – forgetting about the perfect storm (that developed) for them.
“We are in the same boat. But it is tough to win games, even at the end of the season. Weird and wonderful results happen. Very, very rarely do teams go and win six or seven games out of their last eight games.”
A Forest side managed by Martin O’Neill, assisted by Roy Keane, stand between the Blades and a timely boost to the hopes of Bramall Lane hosting Premier League football next term.
Last weekend saw United lose ground on Leeds via a 1-1 draw at home to Millwall, which was followed a couple of hours later by Marcelo Bielsa’s side beating Sheffield Wednesday.
With the Blades heading to Hull City on Easter Monday as Leeds tackle Brentford at Griffin Park in the tea-time kick-off, this weekend continues the recent trend of Wilder’s men playing before their White Rose rivals.
“It makes no odds,” said the Blades chief when asked if this was an advantage or not. “I am not getting involved with what others are doing. We have got it all on to win a game against a great club and a great, very talented manager.
“Every week, it is all on in this division. And because it is all on, it shows what we have been doing to be in this position at this stage.
“One hundred per cent, we are still in this. I can’t do anything about other opinions, be that from Leeds or West Brom or Sheffield or Norwich or wherever. All we are trying to do is affect our team.
“Forest is another opportunity for us to get three points. This is not about the current manager or the assistant manager. But this is a huge club we are ahead of and a club that has spent enormously in the summer. They have found it a difficult league to handle and difficult to get into the top six.
“You look at clubs below us. They show how tough this division is and how unforgiving it can be. And how you have to earn the right to everything that comes your way. It is a big weekend, there is no doubt about that. But it is good that it is a big weekend.”
Oliver Norwood interview: Page 24.