DANNY Wilson has already toasted Chesterfield’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success.
So tonight, when John Sheridan’s side visit Bramall Lane for a fixture with the power to influence both clubs’ seasons, the Sheffield United manager is focused solely on bludgeoning his old pal’s team into submission.
“For all the congratulations we give them, it means absolutely nothing going into this game,” he said.
“That’s been and gone now. This is a completely different occasion.”
The champagne Chesterfield quaffed to celebrate Sunday’s victory over Swindon Town at Wembley barely had time to lose its fizz before Sheridan, a former team mate of Wilson at Sheffield Wednesday, began preparing for this evening’s match. While their opponents need results to avoid relegation from League One, United know any sort of positive outcome would see them climb back into the
automatic promotion places with only seven games remaining.
However, despite their different objectives, United and Chesterfield share a common bond.
“The one thing you always know about Shez’s teams is that they’re going to want to play football and we’re the same,” said Wilson. “Anyone can do it but the key is getting your players to buy into those principles and beliefs.
“If you don’t believe in your players and show them that you believe in them then, quite simply, they won’t believe in you.
“This is a tough and uncompromising division though. Anyone who casts their minds back to our game at Chesterfield’s place will remember how difficult that one was.
“That’s why we were on such a high afterwards when we won it (1-0). Like I say, Chesterfield can play so that’s why we’ll be going into this game firmly on the front foot.”
Wilson has a devastating array of weaponry at his disposal with Michael O’Halloran the latest addition to United’s attacking
ranks after arriving on loan from Bolton Wanderers following last week’s 5-2 win over Notts County.
Ched Evans, whose 82nd minute strike settled November’s contest at the B2net Stadium, was also on target at Meadow Lane.
His tally of 27 for the season is one of the reasons why, entering yesterday’s round of games, only Manchester United had scored more league goals than Wilson’s men in England this
term. Indeed, their return of 73 was better than any other professional outfit in the British Isles barring Linfield and Cliftonville of Northern Ireland’s Carling Premiership.
Nevertheless it was midfielder Stephen Quinn, rather than Evans, Richard Cresswell, James Beattie, O’Halloran or Will Hoskins whom Sheridan chose to namecheck as United’s dangerman at Chesterfield’s media briefing.
“It’s a credit to the way my lads have done so far that people could name five, six or seven when
they’re asked the same question,” Wilson said. “But that would bore the pants off everyone.
“Quinny is such a creative player, though, and he creates a really strong supply line so that’s why he always keeps getting picked.
“We’ve got a lot of forwards here but the situation we are in at the moment makes it easier to keep them happy,” added Wilson.
“If we were down at the other end of the table then that might not be the case but they’ve got a respect for each other and an understanding about the importance of the squad system.
“Of course they all want to play all of the time but it’s not a problem. It really isn’t at all.”
O’Halloran, a Scotland under-21 international, could make his debut against Chesterfield despite Wilson’s acknowledgement that he “already knows what our best partnership is up-front.”
“Michael has got lots of attributes and he’s very highly regarded by Bolton,” Wilson, who could deploy his latest acquisition along the flanks, said. “The only thing he hasn’t got is experience.
“But sometimes that naivety and inexperience is no bad thing to bring in at this stage. It means people play without any fear.”
A luxury which, Wilson has warned, Chesterfield could also enjoy.
“I very rarely listen to the reaction stuff on television but I did after their win at Wembley,” he said. “I know Shez won’t think the same way but even some of their fans seemed to be writing them off against us, which means they’ll be coming here with high emotions and feeling they’ve got nothing to lose.
“Shez and I know each other well,” Wilson added. “But we’ll still be competitive with each other, don’t worry about that.”
Teams and ref
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Williams, Quinn, Doyle, McDonald, Williamson, Evans, Cresswell (4-4-2).
CHESTERFIELD (Possible): Lee, Hurst, Trotman, Thompson, Smith, Talbot, Moussa, Allott, Ridehalgh, Westcarr, Bowery (4-4-2).
Simon Hooper: From Wiltshire, Hooper will be taking charge of his 27th game so far this term at Bramall Lane this evening. Averages 2.65 cautions per game and a red card every 3.7. Dismissed Brighton’s Gonzalo Jara during their recent defeat at Blackpool.
One to watch
Craig Westcarr scored his ninth goal of the season for Chesterfield during the closing stages of their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success at Wembley three days ago. He replaced Jack Lester when the former Sheffield United marksman suffered a groin strain.
Chesterfield’s last victory at Bramall Lane was in January 1989. Tony Agana was on target for Sheffield United as the visitors triumphed 3-1 before completing the ‘double’ over their neighbours at Saltergate two months later. United won 1-0 at the B2net earlier this term.