SHEFFIELD UNITED’S manager Chris Wilder believes Wednesday have once again got a boss who understands the importance of the Steel City derby.
Steve Bruce only arrived at the Owls on February 1, but on Monday night he will host in-form Sheffield United at Hillsborough looking to extend a seven-match unbeaten run.
The Blades manager is backing Bruce to prepare his troops for a Titanic battle, unlike his most recent predecessors Carlos Carvalhal and Jos Luhukay who Wilder believes downplayed the Steel City derby,
United won 4-2 against Carvalhal’s team at Hillsborough last season, but the last two games – 0-0 draws at Bramall Lane when Luhukay was in charge – were dour, one-sided affairs.
However, Wilder, a lifelong Blades fan, is anticipating a feisty encounter at Hillsborough.
“It (the Sheffield derby) hasn’t changed since I was a boy supporting (United), as a player and a manager – it’s a fantastic occasion,” said Wilder.
“I know there has been a couple of different opinions from opposition managers over the last couple of years.
“I think Carlos said, ‘it’s just a game’, which I didn’t get, and the other guy said he’s played in bigger, which I didn’t get even more. But Steve has hit the nail on the head being the man that he is. Brought up in the north-east, having been involved in Manchester derbies and so-called derbies between Liverpool and Manchester United.
“He gets it, I get it, our supporters get it, their supporters get it, and the players get it. It’s great to be involved in.
“Both sets of supporters want their team to go hell for leather in that game.
He gets it, I get it, our supporters get it, their supporters get it, and the players get it. It’s great to be involved in. Both sets of supporters want their team to go hell for leather in that game.Chris Wilder on the signifcance of the Steel City derby
“We were a little bit disappointed in the games at home because we hadn’t done enough.
“But we won’t change our attitude to just get out of their alive and get something from the game.
“I think Sheffield Wednesday fans will honestly believe that as well, they will want to see their team attack. They will definitely attack against us, we will get pushed back and we will push back the opposition.
“That’s what the game is all about. You need two people to dance, and on Monday night you will have two teams going out for a win. We will not be chucking shirts into the crowd if we draw, we are going for a win.”
Bruce – who started his coaching career as a player-manager at Bramall Lane 19 years ago – has won promotion from the Championship four times as boss, with Hull City and Birmingham City.
Begrudgingly, Wilder believes Bruce will bring “future success” to the Owls.
“Steve doesn’t get the promotion he has got, the career as a player that he has, by sitting back and waiting to get beat,” said Wilder. “Their results have shown that, he has attacking players at the club. I have never been disrespectful to the Sheffield Wednesday players and squad, they have an enormous amount of talent in that group.
“Now, unfortunately, they have a manager who I am sure will harness them to future success – even though it pains me to say it.”
The Owls are only six points off the play-off spots – with 12 games remaining – and victory on Monday could also dent United’s automatic promotion hopes.
It is a point not lost on Wilder.
“Regarding pressure, we are second in the division and have got the chance to beat our local rivals in front of a capacity crowd live on Sky,” he said.
“There’s bigger pressures on Sheffield Wednesday. They want to go and win a game of football for their supporters, and they want to stop us going up.
“I don’t think any Sheffield football fan will have a different opinion on that.
“Being totally honest, I am not sat there watching them play in the play-off final wanting them to get into the Premier League. It’s vice versa. That’s just part of being involved in Sheffield.
“We are competitive now in the city and I think our neighbours know that.”
Wilder – unbeaten in his three Sheffield derbies as the Blades manager – is expecting a hostile crowd at a sell-out Hillsborough, but insists his players will be prepared.
“We are not scared of losing,” he said. “I have heard a few shouts that we are frightened of making a mistake. Our boys won’t, we will be going the other way.
“There is going to be rivalry, there is going to be abuse chucked at each other, it sometimes goes over the top, which disappoints me a little bit.
“The rivalry for that game is going to be intense.”