Chris Wilder has not revealed if it was a statement of intent or a coded message.
But his decision to change attire on matchdays, swapping jacket and tie for a plain black tracksuit, has coincided with a series of good old fashioned, blue collar performances from Sheffield United’s players.
“The sign of a really good side is one that wins games in all sorts of manners,” he said. “From the front, from behind and even with only 10 men on the pitch. The signs early on are that these boys have got plenty of bottle.
“Yes, we want to play attractive, stylish football and I think we’ve done that at times. But, at the end of the day, it counts for nothing if you aren’t prepared to roll-up your sleeves and fight.”
United have proven willing to do exactly that after falling behind against Gillingham and Oxford before going on to win both games. Wilder, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s visit to AFC Wimbledon, admitted it was “ridiculous” the club had failed to perform the same feat throughout the entirety of last season. But, following a major summer overhaul, this United team is a very different beast. Both personnel-wise and in a psychological sense.
“You’ve got to win games in all sorts of different manners and it speaks volumes for the players that they’ve not buckled after going behind,” Wilder, who was appointed manager four months ago, said. “There is a structure to how we play. Get after the ball and press, no matter what the formation. You can dress it up how you want but the aim is still the same: winning games. With and without the ball, the principles don’t change. The system might but the principles don’t.”
“As long as they leave it all out there,” Wilder added. “I believe we’ve got enough about us as staff to organise the players and get them set-up correctly. And we’ve got enough quality to win games. So the other bit, the attitude, is key.”
United’s mental strength will be put to the test at AFC Wimbledon tomorrow when, after two maximum point hauls, they attempt to complete a hat-trick of League One victories. Neil Ardley’s side, who won promotion from League Two last term, play at the 4,850 capacity Kingsmeadow stadium and Wilder said: “It’s all about overcoming different challenges. We go from unbelievably glamorous grounds like Bolton, which is a Premier League ground, to places like Wimbledon. I know the lads well enough down there to say that. It’s Kingstonians’ old ground, they pack them in and make it difficult. So if we are going to progress, we have to deal with everything that’s chucked at us.”
“I don’t want us to sit back and think two games is enough. I want the players to be hungry. There are no days off if you want to achieve. We keep talking about successful teams, well, they go on winning runs. So we have to go there and look to make it three on the bounce or, at the very least, take something from the game.”