Sheffield United v Wolves - Last season counts for nothing, says Chris Wilder

JUST as Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder scoffs at talk of promoted clubs being susceptible to the perils of ‘second season syndrome’ in the top-flight, so he is paying little attention to the stellar past achievements of his Blades side either.

Ethan Ampadu on his signing for Sheffield United at Bramall Lane (Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage)

The fact that the Bramall Lane outfit head into the new campaign on the back of their best ever finish in the Premier League is incidental to the Blades chief, whose side start their 2020-21 journey at home to Wolves this evening (6pm).

Outside of the division’s ‘establishment’, the duo were arguably the high achievers of 2019-20, with Blades finishing in a hugely impressive ninth place and thrashing that well-held view that teams promoted from the Championship invariably struggle.

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It has raised expectations for the new season and Wilder has stressed there is nothing wrong with that as he and his group of motivated, hungry and talented players seek to establish themselves and their club in the big time. That has proved difficult in recent times for Yorkshire sides.

Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield United welcomes Max Lowe (Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage)

Huddersfield Town were relegated in their second season in the Premier League in 2018-19, with Hull City suffering that fate in 2009-10 and 2014-15.

Wilder, thought, is not one for delving into the history books.

While he believes that his Blades squad is significantly stronger than the one which lined up on the first day of last season at Bournemouth, he is conscious of his players’ need ‘to walk the walk’ again.

Wilder said: “Expectations will be high. I imagine people observing will be impressed in terms of how we attacked the division last year and the league position, which was fabulous for a newly-promoted side.

Oliver Burke signs for Sheffield United (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)

“That counts for nothing (now). You get all sorts of statistics and people talking about ‘second season syndrome’ and being found out. All those things are irrelevant from my point of view.

“We have to start the season in the same manner and with the same attitude and desire as last year. The group is better for the experience of their first season in the Premier League.

“It is stronger than when we started out against Bournemouth last year. This is my opinion. But these are only opinions and we have got to walk the walk.

“Hopefully we will hit the ground running, because the start is so important. We got a fabulous start last year with four points out of our first two games. It gave us a foothold in division early on. It is important we try and make the same start.”

United head into tonight’s game with their options replenished by the signings of Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu, West Brom forward Oliver Burke and Derby County duo Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe.

The quartet’s desire to make an immediate impact in the Premier League is fervent, according to Wilder, who will hand a second Blades debut to fellow new recruit Aaron Ramsdale this evening.

Should the Blades bring in another striker to complete their 25-man squad, Wilder is confident in his assertion that the club will be able to look back on their best transfer window.

It will strengthen the club’s prospects of establishing themselves as a top-tier club in the process and help raise standards further, according to Wilder.

Wilder, who has hinted at nuances in his side’s tactical approach, said: “Listening to the players and how they have come back off the break, there is a huge amount of enthusiasm going into our second season.

“We want to establish ourselves in the Premier League. We have enormous challenges and nothing is given because you had a decent season last year. We have got to go out and do business and we are all up for that.

“We have analysed and there are things we need to improve on.

“Can we take more chances than we create?. I think we were fifth or sixth in the division in creating big chances (last year) and we feel we need to improve our goal tally. Our defensive record was outstanding. If we can replicate that or be in and around that, that would be great. But there are different ways we need to play.”

Last six games: Sheffield United DWWLLL; Wolves WDWLWL.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Last time: Sheffield United 1 Wolves 0, July 8, 2020; Premier League.

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James Mitchinson