Sheffield United: Chris Wilder delivers a message to his players asÂ the Steel City derby countdown begins
When the dust had settled on their visit to Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder issued an important directive to his players.
'Be ready,' he told them as they packed up their belongings before leaving the City Ground. 'Be ready to play in our next game.'
That match Wilder was referring to needs no introduction, hyperbole or hype. Friday's Steel City derby, against Sheffield Wednesday at Bramall Lane, is the most important date on every United player's calendar. And woe betide any of them, including those who watched yesterday's defeat from the stands, if they fail to prepare properly and subsequently let the club down.
"Everyone, no matter what team got picked last time out, has got to be ready to step in when required," Wilder said. "That's the key, the most important ingredient, in any successful club.
"Nobody knows what is around the corner. It's impossible to predict what might happen in the week. So even if you've not been involved for a while, you've still got to train as if you had been. First off because, if that's not the case, then you're not going to stand a chance."
By his own admission, 'not being involved' was actually a poor choice of words because of way Wilder works behind the scenes. The concept of a Bomb Squad, devised by Wolverhampton Wanderers four years ago, is an anathema to United's manager.
"There's no 'you go and work over there'Â here," he continued. "Everyone works together because we're all in it together. Everyone wants the same thing.
"Obviously not everyone can play at any one time but that doesn't mean to say they shouldn't be preparing with each other, supporting each other and helping each other out. So we don't tell people who haven't been getting game time at a period of the season to work away from the main bunch and then call them back when they're needed.
"Why would you do that? To me, it doesn't make sense. Everyone is going to be needed at some stage and when they are, they've got to be ready to go out there and play. Here, we're all about the group."
That mentality and sense of solidarity will be vital against a Wednesday side who, despite making a chequered start to the season, Wilder suspects will be busting a gut to dent their neighbours' promotion ambitions. Indeed, they made the short journey to S2 in similar circumstances last term before, in Jos Luhukay's first game at the helm, frustrating United during a goalless draw.
Wilder's message about individuals practicing properly becomes even more pertinent when you consider how United train. Despite the significance of the meeting with Wednesday, his United side will train hard and fast rather than being wrapped in cotton. It is a risk, given the possibility of injuries, but one Wilder believes is worth taking.
"I'm a big believer in the idea that you train as you play and vice versa," he said. "We want to have a tempo in games and so that's why we train at full tilt. From Monday to Friday, that's what we do. It's not going to change."