Steel City derby: Chris Wilder is backing rival Steve Bruce to revive Sheffield Wednesday

New manager Steve Bruce can turn Sheffield Wednesday back into “a force in the division”.

Chris Wilder: Praise for new Owls chief.
Chris Wilder: Praise for new Owls chief.

This is the view of Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder ahead of tonight’s Steel City derby at Hillsborough.

United have taken over the mantle as Sheffield’s top team in the last 18 months – since smashing the Owls 4-2 in the corresponding fixture last season – and are chasing a top-two finish in the Championship.

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But after a torrid 12 months under Dutchman Jos Luhukay, Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri turned to Bruce – who has four Championship promotions on his CV – to halt the decline at Hillsborough. A seven-game unbeaten run, including impressive wins over Swansea City and Reading, has brought the feelgood factor back to S6.

Even ardent Blades fan Wilder – not abashed to recall celebrating Andy Linighan’s FA Cup final replay extra-time winning goal for Arsenal against the Owls in 1993 – is impressed with the early impression Bruce has made.

“I wouldn’t bet against him, longer term, turning them into a force in the division,” said Wilder. “Steve’s appointment won’t impact us, but it will impact his club. He’s turned it around there. We’ve watched them the last three, four and five games and they’ve been really good.

“They’re in good form, they’ve got a bit of momentum, and the same can be said about us. Two big clubs going toe-to-toe and full tilt.

“Everyone talks about how hard this division is to get out of. To get out of it once is hard enough, to do it four times is excellent.

“Who is to say he won’t galvanise Wednesday? The message we want to send out is two teams, in a passionate city, going at it in the right way.

“Is our season done on Monday night? No, but that doesn’t take away from the fact we’ll be going in full tilt. I don’t think you can say there’s more riding on it for one than the other. They can win a string of games. We have done.

“Andy Linighan scoring a header and me running around the front room and mum asking me what I was doing – that’s just football rivalry.”