Gary Megson fired the first shots in the ‘phoney war’ ahead of next weekend’s Sheffield derby by playing down his own side’s chances of winning automatic promotion.
The Sheffield Wednesday manager appears to be employing reverse psychology in analysing the expectations of both clubs ahead of their second meeting of the season, a week on Sunday at Hillsborough.
Megson suggested in the wake of the Owls’ second successive League One defeat on Tuesday night that with a bigger wage bill than themselves, United should be in a stronger position to return to the Championship.
Wednesday’s 1-0 reverse to Stevenage Borough, allied with the Blades’ win at Huddersfield, added substance to Megson’s mind games as United moved two points ahead of the Owls into second place, with two games in hand.
Danny Wilson’s United also have the initiative after winning 10 of their last 12 games. Wednesday, by contrast, have won only three times in the league since the turn of the year and Megson said: “I’m from Sheffield and I know all about the rivalry between Wednesday and United.
“They’re entirely different to us. I’ve got my own views about the clubs, but you’ve got one team that should never come out of the Championship with a wage bill of £12m, £14m, whatever it is, and a £3.5m centre forward (Ched Evans). They’re going to be a threat in League One.
“We haven’t got that but we have to try and do it as best we can in a way that we can.
“There’s a third of the season left for us. United have got more games than us, Huddersfield have, MK Dons have as well, but we’ll just keep pushing and pushing and pushing as far as we can.”
The fact that Tuesday night’s defeat to an in-form Stevenage came via a goal conceded at a corner – Scott Laird diverting in Chris Beardsley’s knockdown – enraged Megson, who is threatening changes at the back unless his markers wise up.
“In our last six games, we’ve cost ourselves a minimum of eight points by failing to defend set-pieces properly,” said a frustrated Megson. “We’ve got players who individually aren’t doing what they know is expected of them from set-pieces.
“I know who it is. Everybody in the dressing room knows who it is. It’s written down there, to pick up, who it was.
“You either do it or you come out of the team.
“You won’t be in there if I can’t trust you and a big, big part of football is being able to trust people.”
Owls chairman Milan Mandaric yesterday postponed a local press briefing due to illness.