Sheffield United fans Jordan Warner, Dan Gosling and Rikki Sephton give us the lowdown on the Blades, who visit Glanford Park on the back of four league wins on the bounce.
The season didn’t start off particularly well, with Chris Wilder saying some of the players he had signed were struggling to handle the pressure. On the whole, do you think he strengthened well over the summer?
DG: Man for man it is a better squad than last season; but more importantly he has changed the attitude and approach of the remaining and new players. There will be low points this season just as there were last but it will not be down to a lack of effort or poor attitude and there is more chance of bouncing back quicker from poor results/performances.
RS: On the whole, yes, we had a budget and stuck to it. The first few games were always going to shape the side and credit to Chris Wilder for seeing that one or two areas needed some strengthening and moving quickly to address that. We also moved a lot, and i mean a lot, of deadwood and high earners from the team.
JW: Over the past few seasons we really haven’t had a balanced squad, with players who have had problematic attitudes and players who were simply not good enough. This has changed this season. We have got rid of the deadwood and we’ve now got a squad that can interchange from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 to 4-3-3, which can only be promising. I do believe we’re still short of a winger but all in all we are miles ahead of what we had at the end of last season.
Four wins from four seems to have changed the mood around Bramall Lane. Do you think you’ve finally found the right manager or is it too early to say?
DG: Definitely the right manager but saying that we have had that before (Wilson, Clough) but rash decisions were made. It is a huge job and will take time; just as there was over reaction to our poor start there cannot be complacency following 4 wins. On Saturday we were slightly fortuitous and could easily have drawn or lost. Critically though you’re right the mood is changing.
RS: I think people have been fairly positive since the appointment was made, most fan bases have a group that have unrealistic expectations and we can be our own worst enemy at times, it’s kind of a catch 22 situation, we understand that he needs time however after sitting and watching 5 season of drivel we kind of want to hit the ground running so it can be frustrating seeing the same sideways and backwards football as per the 2 previous incumbents.
JW: Again positive signs so far. We started poorly but unlike previous managers at the Lane, Wilder has identified the areas of weakness, changed our formation and recruited wisely to curb the issue. Too early to judge, but so far so good.
Matt Done seems to be making more of an impact now he has been given a more advanced role, with fans praising his workrate of late. Is that the kind of attitude that had been missing from the Blades’ side in recent years?
DG: He was played as left back last season indicative of a manager who had lost his grip of reality. Done personifies the turnaround as he is a very average player but he is giving his all. He chases lost causes and deserves his rewards with two recent goals. However, it is not just effort that we need but ability and skill. This is the foundation to build on.
RS: Matt Done is a striker or nothing for me, most Blades fans know this. He played there under Clough and constantly looked a threat, he runs at defenders and gets us pressing high up the pitch. He lost his way under Adkins, it’s amazing how a season in the shade and playing out of position and people forget how good you used to be! Done and Sharp can form a great partnership in my opinion.
JW: Matt Done has always had a ridiculous work rate but I think it’s more the fact that he’s been played in his correct position alongside another striker. In addition, I think we have seen over recent games an increased level of desire from all squad members, instilled by our manager.
How is our old winger Mark Duffy, who didn’t exactly endear himself to Iron fans following a moan about training over Christmas, getting on?
DG: So far very little but I’m optimistic that in time the results will come as he has something. As the team gel and become more confident he could flourish and become an important cog it’s just not quite working at the minute.
RS: Started slowly, having seen him tear us a part for Scunny and also Burton previously people expected miracles. Once he settles i think he will be OK. It’s no secret we are looking at more wide men and currently have Cameron Stewart on trial after having a look at Chris Burke. Maybe he needs this to help him push on? There are glimmers of quality but not enough to show why he was in the divisions team of the year last season.
JW: Currently playing a Number 10 role in our midfield 3. He’s been given a free role so far and he’s been a bit hot and cold but I’m sure he’ll be a crucial member of our team if we do push for promotion. He definitely adds that bit of quality and creativity going forward.
Leon Clarke wasn’t in the squad at the weekend. What’s happened there? Is he injured or just misfiring?
DG: On the bench as he is the right player in the wrong team/system. How we could have used him in years gone by but not currently as he doesn’t work in our system as it stands. Rather a strange signing truth to be told and it will interesting to see what happens there.
RS: He started the first few games and although he won almost everything in the air, him and Sharp just didn’t seem to work. They were miles apart from each other so Wilder changed it. We have also signed Lavery from the dark side of Sheffield, who’s pace can play a key role late on in games.
JW: Couple of niggles so far for Leon but with Done and Sharp firing, I’m sure he’ll be used as an impact sub anyway as the season progresses.
Who else should we look out for in the Blades line up?
DG: No stand outs but a team and that counts for a lot. Our keeper Moore was £500k and won us the points on Saturday. He is the one to look out for.
RS: Lafferty and Freeman our wing backs. Freeman has found a new lease of life under Wilder since Brayford moved on, gets forward and is good at crossing. Coutts is another who seems to have regained his confidence, he’s always looked like he can play but seems to have found the magic again. As mentioned above Lavery is quick and will probably make an appearance for the last 20 mins or so. Simon Moore the new goalkeeper pulled off 2 or 3 world class saves in the win at the weekend.
JW: A fans favourite already, Ethan Ebanks-Landell (On Loan From Wolves) had an excellent game on Saturday. An absolute unit of a man at centre half.
Where will Saturday’s game be won or lost?
DG: Our defence in front of Moore is fragile, attack us with pace and we will crack. Similarly, our midfield is working hard but lacks pace and we could get over-run.
RS: Personally I think our defence is the key, although we’ve been winning games we’ve usually conceded first. We let in 2 against a poor AFC Wimbledon side. If we keep it tight at the back we have the tools going forward to unlock most defences in this league.
JW: If you can get around and behind our wingbacks, I believe that’s our weak link.
Finally, can you give us a score prediction?
DG: 3-1 or 2-1 to you.
RS: Tight game I reckon, 1-1. Van Veen for Sunny Scunny and Sharp for the Blades.
JW: 3-1 to the Blades