AS far as manager Chris Wilder is concerned, actions will speak louder than words from his Sheffield United charges over the next dozen Championship fixtures.
Ultimately the Blades chief feels there are always those that do and those that don’t during the business end of the season that separates the men from the boys.
It is the time of the footballing year that he loves more than any other, the time when the phoney war is over, a time for deeds and not rallying calls or Churchillian speeches.
Wilder’s view is that his players require no rousing for tonight’s game at a promotion-chasing Fulham side who walked the walk at Bramall Lane in a remarkable 5-4 win in November and who are unbeaten in a far-from-unlucky 13-game league sequence.
After metaphorically hauling his side over the equivalent of hot coals following their recent loss at Hull City, Wilder witnessed a reaction in the play-off chasing Blades’ 3-1 win at Reading last time out.
It was a timely response, but Wilder is clearly expecting much more and, for his part, silence will be golden if he is forced to keep quiet in the weeks ahead.
Wilder said: “We have got to go again. I am not going to just change my tune. I said those words (after Hull) because I believed them, not because I was trying to be clever. The players have got to go and do it again.
“The teams that do it, that achieve and get to where they want to be, are the ones who go again. Take me out of it. Do it for yourself, do it for the football club and do it for the fans.
“They do not have to just prove a point once, they have to prove it over a period. They have got to prove me wrong with the statement I made and keep going.
“If I do not have to say anything more between now and the end of the season then we are in with a shout.
“It is not talking to the media, talking to themselves or in the changing room, it is what they do when they step out on the pitch.
“There has always been talk about adversity, being up against it and the business end. If you want to be a top player you love this time of the year. It is game on and this is when players really do show what they are about.”
Wilder certainly does not have to spell out through the media just what the Blades are up against tonight in a Fulham side whose last three victories have arrived against Derby County, Wolves and Aston Villa.
Those are the sort of statistics that speak for themselves and demand instant respect.
This is a step up, the table shows that. But they know that. They know Fulham are an outstanding team who will take a lot of stopping. But I cannot wait and I am confident the players will be of the same mindset.Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder
Respect will be duly afforded, but it is not in the DNA of a Wilder side to be overawed either.
“We are playing Fulham away on a Tuesday night, in London. Our club has spent enough time languishing in League One playing teams that I will not name, but people can write down”, the Blades chief opined.
“These are fantastic games. It is going to be tough and they will be big favourites. If they say, ‘yes’ then possibly they should win. But if they do not and we do, if we do things right and try to hurt them then we can get a result.
“This is a step up, the table shows that. But they know that. They know Fulham are an outstanding team who will take a lot of stopping.
“But I cannot wait and I am confident the players will be of the same mindset.”
A meaningful reaction of substance at Reading – after Wilder’s public blast following the Hull setback – suggested that Blades players had taken their manager’s harsh words squarely on the chin and possess a strong jaw too.
It also suggested that a few home truths had been uttered by the Blades’ senior players to the rest of the squad to illustrate that the passive display at Hull was simply not good enough.
This would be in keeping with an era under Wilder that has been characterised by a dressing room who drive their own standards and should not have to be told what their manager expects.
Defender Richard Stearman, facing one of his former clubs tonight, acknowledged: “The gaffer cannot hold our hands throughout the 90 minutes and however much time we have away from the pitch and in the dressing room.
“It is down to us as senior players to make sure that things are right on and off the pitch and that standards are high and when it falls below we can put that right ourselves.
“We knew we were not there or thereabouts (at Hull). It is important we bounced back and we did very well against Reading.
“We have got some great senior pros here that take it upon themselves to police the dressing room as well. Not that it needs much policing in there, but we have some good senior heads in there that keep the dressing room on track.
“It starts with the skipper and myself and a few other senior players who can do that job.”
Last six games: Fulham WDWDWW Sheffield United LWLWLW.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).
Last time: Fulham 3 Sheffield United 0; August 25, 2015; Capital One Cup.