NO manager and injuries to several key names seems a recipe for footballing disaster rather than success.
But Sheffield United have been warned that Bournemouth - who, despite lavishing nearly one million pounds on a single player during the transfer window, remain rooted in mid-table - will provide a thorough examination of their promotion credentials tomorrow.
“Bournemouth are a very good team,” Danny Wilson, whose counterpart, Lee Bradbury, was sacked towards the end of last month, said. “They’ve spent quite a lot of money and they’ll be disappointed where they are.
“But the players there will be wanting to make sure they’re in a good position for when a new face comes in and arguably that will make them even tougher.
“There are careers to play for and contracts to play for.
“They’ll want to cement themselves at the club and, in my experience, managers coming in look for people who show character when, on the face of it, there isn’t much to play for.”
“I’ve never bought that idea though anyway,” Wilson added. “I’ve never ever known a professional not give their all during a match.”
Matt Tubbs, an £800,000 signing from Crawley Town in January, has seen his progress at The Seward Stadium hampered by a groin strain.
Ched Evans, United’s own attacking dynamo, missed the start of the season through injury but has since scored 31 goals in 39 appearances to help fire Wilson’s side to within six points of League One leaders Charlton Athletic.
With Sheffield Wedmesday and Huddersfield Town – third and fourth respectively – set to meet tomorrow lunchtime, Wilson once again insisted that finishing first remains United’s objective but acknowledged: “I think it’s a shoot-out between four teams (for the top two positions).
“We want to relish the situation and embrace it. There really shouldn’t be any fear.
“Quite the opposite in fact. We should be excited.”
United remain in the box seat to secure the runners-up spot after climbing to second when Evans’ penalty put Hartlepool to the sword last weekend.
But Wilson, revealing they have no fresh fitness concerns ahead of Bournemouth’s visit, warned: “We’ve done nothing yet. We’ll be in the play-offs but if we’re satisfied with that then they’ll be a problem.
“We’ve enjoyed our results so far. Sometimes those 1-0 wins can actually be more enjoyable than if you’ve played perfect football because of the effort you have to put in.”
Speaking before the trip to Victoria Park, Neill Collins commented how Wilson’s refusal to immerse himself in the dark arts of spin and so-called ‘mind games’ has helped United’s squad cope with the weight of expectation being placed upon their shoulders.
“Just because my players don’t have their eyes bulging and veins popping out
of their necks doesn’t mean to say they’re not focused,” Wilson said.
“We’ve just tried to be consistent in our football and consistent in what we are asking them to do.
“There’s no point in chopping and changing all the time and confusing people.
“Equally, there’s no point in laying into folk if they don’t get
the result we were hoping for and being up and down like a fiddler’s elbow all the time.
“These lads don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
Wilson added: “We’ve got to be right on our game against Bournemouth.
“They’re missing some players with injury and their manager went not so long ago but coming to Bramall Lane could be an inspiration for them.
“Especially if the atmosphere is how I think it’s going to be.”
Teams and ref
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Hill, Williamson, Doyle, McDonald, Quinn, Evans, Cresswell (4-4-2).
BOURNEOUTH (Possible): Flahavan, Francis, Addison, Cook, Malone, Cooper, Pugh, MacDonald, Arter, Hines, Thomas (4-4-2).
Andy Woolmer: Based in Northamptonshire, Woolmer cautioned six Sheffield United players when he took charge of their draw at Tranmere Rovers eight months ago. Will be overseeing a Bournemouth match for the third time since August. Averages 3.5 cautions per game this term and a red card every 5.3 matches.
One to watch
Robbie Savage lookalike Mark Molesley, who found himself on the receiving end of some good-natured barracking from Sheffield United fans at the Seward Stadium in December, has since joined Aldershot on loan. Simon Francis, previously of Bramall Lane, should enjoy a warm reception.
Bournemouth have won only once at Bramall Lane in six attempts. That victory came on Saturday August 15 1987. Sheffield United triumphed 2-0 in Dorset earlier this term courtesy of two own goals. That result left United third in the table and Bournemouth 16th. Now they are second and 12th respectively.