DANNY Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, has told his players to embrace the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a League One promotion battle.
United will climb to second in the table with seven matches remaining if they avoid defeat when Chesterfield visit Bramall Lane tomorrow night.
With Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town also chasing a top- two finish, Wilson’s side know every aspect of their performance against the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy winners will be subjected to intense scrutiny.
But the former Northern Ireland international, who boasts a 57 per cent success rate since taking charge 10 months ago, said: “If this is pressure then I’d love to be under it in every single game. Sometimes I honestly think other people feel it more than we do.”
Although Wilson’s attempts not to allow the often wildly conflicting emotions of supporters and the media to permeate United’s Shirecliffe training complex are laudable, it is impossible to completely shield a squad, many of whom live in the city, from the prevailing mood.
Midfielder Kevin McDonald, who returned from injury for last week’s 5-2 win over Notts County, commented following that triumph at Meadow Lane how the atmosphere created by over 3,000 United followers had contributed to arguably the club’s most impressive display of the campaign so far.
Defender Neill Collins has also spoken at
length about the benefits of being composed both on and off the pitch.
“There wasn’t any booing or stuff like that,” McDonald said. “Only encouragement, and that was a real help.”
Wilson echoed those sentiments, saying: “We know, with the calibre of player that we’ve got, if we can create the right temperament then that’s absolutely key.”
With United’s meeting with Chesterfield rescheduled due to the visitors’ involvement at Wembley, a 1-0 victory over Leyton Orient enabled Wednesday to leapfrog United in the rankings. Huddersfield are two points behind them in
fourth having beaten leaders Charlton Athletic by the same scoreline.
Speaking last week, Wilson acknowledged Chesterfield would pose a “tough test” despite battling for survival at the opposite end of the table.
Although John Sheridan’s men are sure to be buoyed by Sunday’s achievements at Wembley, they also enter their meeting with United knowing they must defy history as well as the form book.
Only four of the last 10 teams to lift the trophy have then gone on to win their next match.
“Chesterfield are a team that likes to play good football,” Wilson warned.