SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder believes Fulham offer the blueprint for success in January after revealing he must focus on loan signings during the transfer window.
The Blades host West Bromwich Albion tonight sitting third in the table, five points adrift of Leeds United in the second automatic promotion place.
Ending a three-game losing run against rivals from the top six by beating the Baggies is the priority for Wilder, but he also has one eye on the upcoming opening of the window.
The United manager wants to bring in “two to three” new faces on a temporary basis, most likely from the Premier League with Jermain Defoe and Shane Long understood to have been on the club’s radar in recent weeks.
Wilder declined to comment on potental targets, but he did tell The Yorkshire Post: “How important January will be (in the promotion race) depends on the outlook of the different managers.
“Some will think they are okay, just needing players back fit to be nice and set.
“But we need a lift in certain areas and need to improve, and we will try to do that. No permanents, the quality we are looking at will be loan signings.
“That takes us down a different route. I would rather go on the longer term view and the club knows that. But I am working within the budget I have been given and, as I have always tried to do, I will get the maximum out of that.
“We are looking at topping that up with two or three. Not big changes, just changes to make us better
“We have two loans already in ‘Jonno’ (Marvin Johnson) and Dean (Henderson). We do not want to have six or seven loans, where I am having to leave people out of the 18.
“We have to get the right player. We are an attractive proposition to players. Hopefully we can keep this position going into January to make us even more attractive.
“It helps as does the exposure we have had. Sometimes we are our best advert in terms of how we have played and gone about it.
“The club historically is a fantastic one. Everyone knows that. The ground, the facilities, the support we get. We need to tie it all in financially.”
Fulham offer the way forward for a club such as the Blades after bringing in a couple of quality loanees during the last January window. The Cottagers, 12th as 2018 got under way, brought in striker Aleksandar Mitrovic from Newcastle United and Southampton defender Matt Targett.
Come May both loanees were celebrating promotion at Wembley after Aston Villa had been beaten in the play-off final.
“The division is closer this season than last,” added Wilder, who has recalled young striker Tyler Smith from his loan spell at Barrow as back-up in case Leon Clarke faces a fitness test to face West Brom.
“I would not be surprised to see someone from lower down come on a run, win four or five games on the spin, and push themselves into contention.
“A year ago Wolves did not do a lot (in January). Maybe (Benik) Afobe right at the end. Cardiff did (Gary) Madine, but the big ones were Mitrovic and Targett at Fulham.
“Whether the changing room needs a lift or just to strengthen, we need a little bit more in certain areas.”
Tonight will put Wilder against not only former Bradford City team-mate Darren Moore, but also Wayne Jacobs, who played under the Blades’ chief at Halifax Town before then joining his coaching staff at The Shay.
“Two great footballing guys,” said Wilder about his former colleagues.
“I have known ‘Jakes’ since I was 12. A big pal of mine. Unfortunately a Sheffield Wednesday supporter so for me to bridge that one and even share a car with him was a big thing.
“No, seriously, he is a great kid. ‘Jakes’ played for me at Halifax and was assistant manager and it is good for him to be back involved.”
The visit of fifth-placed West Brom offers the Blades a chance to improve on what has been a pretty poor record against the current top six.
United did beat Norwich City back in August, but Middlesbrough, Leeds and Derby County have all taken three points off Wilder’s men this term.
“If someone had said to me, ‘You will lose against the top teams, but be third’ then I would have been happy,” said the Lane chief.
“It is about points accumulation. But you have to win the big games. We are looking to do that.
“For us to put ourselves in the position of being involved in these big games is a great achievement by the group. We now have to see if we can do a little bit better. “
Asked about the threat posed by tonight’s opponents, Wilder replied: “They will be eyeing the top two with the players they have got.”
Last six games: Sheffield United LDDWLW West Bromwich Albion LWWWDD.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).
Last time: Sheffield United 2 West Bromwich Albion 2; August 29, 2009; Championship.
Last night’s results: Page 24.