Sheffield Derby: '˜This is the biggest game there is' says Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder
Chris Wilder has described the Steel City derby as the most important date on Sheffield United's calendar after Jos Luhukay, his opposite number at Sheffield Wednesday, claimed to have been involved in bigger games abroad.
Wilder, a lifelong United supporter and former player, made no attempt to downplay the occasion's significance ahead of tonight's meeting at Bramall Lane; insisting his side also regard games against their neighbours as the most important in English football.
The United manager's approach contrasts sharply with the one employed by Luhukay who, citing attendance figures, argued fixtures involving his former clubs Hertha Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach were more pressurised.
"I know Jos has said this isn't his biggest," Wilder replied when asked about those comments. "It is for me, for my pals, my mates and my family.
"This is the derby for us. It's what we've been brought up with. I know what it means to people like Len Badger and also, on the other side, for lads like Mel (Sterland).
"It gets a grip of you. It's fierce. It gets a hold of you. I'm not from Liverpool or Manchester. This is the big one, the biggest by far, for me."
Despite entering the contest 14 places above Wednesday in the table, Wilder has disputed the assertion United should be viewed as favourites; highlighting the difference in spending power between the two clubs.
"I respect them and I respect Jos," he said. "We'll try and take the handbrake off. They've got some great stars and we know they are going to bring their 'A' game. So, to stand a chance of winning, we've got to bring our 'A' game too.
"We've built our team on the collective. Nothing changes for us, home or away."
Wilder, whose team are third, used United's pre-match media conference to express his delight at how those members of their squad born elsewhere in the country have embraced both the derby and the club as a whole.
Using the on-loan Dean Henderson as an example, Wilder said: "The goalkeeper, he's not thinking about Manchester United when he charges up to the half way line to celebrate a goal is he? That's the character we try and build and harness."
"I do believe the harmony between supporters and players is key," he added. "We've got that. Other clubs, when you go away, don't.Â
"Our supporters trust our players. Wednesday are going to bring their A game, with all the players they've got. They have to. Our support, if they are behind us, will give the boys an extra yard."