SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder says he has no sympathy with the current plight of Sheffield Wednesday counterpart Jos Luhukay – and will have no qualms about intensifying the pressure on him tonight.
The mood in both camps could not be more contrasting ahead of this evening’s 129th Steel City derby, with the Blades mindful that a home victory would see them move to the top of the Championship – 16 places above their arch-rivals.
Following a worrying run of four successive losses, Wednesday are looking over their shoulders towards the relegation positions as opposed to upwards – and face a difficult task against a United side who are unbeaten at home in the second-tier since the opening day of the season.
Sheffield-born Wilder, a lifelong Unitedite, insists that sentiment is the last thing that comes into the equation on derby day and his sole concern is helping to mastermind a sweet victory for the Blades, who have won just one of their last five home meetings with the Owls.
Wilder said: “There is no room for sentiment. Nobody will be sentimental for me in my career. Nobody was when I was at Halifax.
“People in the game realise it (management) is a tough job. I do not think there can be any sentiment at all and there certainly will not be any sentiment between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday.
“I am not interested in what has gone off over there. But they have some tremendously powerful footballers who they have spent big fees and wages on. We have gone about it in a slightly different way.
“But that does not take the pressure off us though. Because we still want it.”
Ahead of the resumption of hostilities in one of the most fierce cross-city rivalries in British football, Wilder has revealed that he will forego the need for anything resembling Churchillian-type speeches ahead of kick-off – with the status of the fixture speaking for itself.
With no significant injury issues to contend with ahead of tonight’s derby, Wilder says that all of his squad are chomping at the bit to be involved and will require no extra motivation whatever for what will be a highly-charged occasion.
All they have had from me is little reminders. There will not be any speeches from me when the bell goes. They know what it is about. They know and have that professional pride.Chris Wilder
He added: “I took a step back this week and thought ‘go on then, show me what you have got’. They all want a game and they have all pushed, but they are driving it themselves.
“All they have had from me is little reminders. There will not be any speeches from me when the bell goes. They know what it is about. They know and have that professional pride.
“I have not had to say anything. The skipper (Billy Sharp) will have reminded everyone in there of their responsibilities. I do not go in there or get involved.”
Last season’s Bramall Lane meeting between the Blades and the Owls, also on a Friday night in front of the TV cameras in mid-January, was a largely uneventful occasion which ended in a 0-0 draw in Luhukay’s maiden match in charge of Wednesday. But Wilder is expecting more drama this evening.
The Blades chief is also unequivocal in his view that his side are a better all-round outfit than they were in 2017-18.
Wilder observed: “I think we are in a better place now. I think we have shown we can produce big performances on big occasions.
“We have got two huge clubs from our huge historic city going toe to toe on a wet November night.
“We all know people from Liverpool, Newcastle or whatever. But the history of the game is based in Sheffield.
“I do not think anyone will be disappointed with the game.”
Picking from strength ahead of this evening’s game, Wilder admits that he has had some ‘difficult decisions’ to make in terms of finalising his starting line-up, although the dilemmas have been welcome ones from a managerial perspective.
The likes of Billy Sharp, Leon Clarke and David McGoldrick are all pushing for a start up front, while influential attacking midfielder Mark Duffy, who has missed the Blades’ last two games with a hip issue, is also fit again and further adds to Wilder’s creative options.
Defender Chris Basham, who this week signed a new long-term deal, also returns to the squad following a one-match ban.
Wilder said: “Duff has been a really important player during my time here, let alone recently. We had lost a little bit of momentum while he has not played, so him coming back into the group is great. Bash coming back into the squad is also good news for us as he is a big player for us. All over the squad, there are some difficult decisions to make.”
Venue: Bramall Lane.
Coverage: Sky Sports.
Team news: Sheffield Wednesday could include forwards Fernando Forestieri and Marco Matias after the pair returned to training after injury. But Keiren Westwood, David Jones, Gary Hooper, Kieran Lee and Sam Winnall are all sidelined due to injury. Sheffield United have no injury problems, meaning a recall for Mark Duffy.
Last six games: United WWLDWL; Wednesday DWLLLL.
Referee: A Madley (W Yorkshire).
Last time: Sheffield United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0; January 12 2018; Championship.