Blades get to grips with escape route

Sheffield United vs Rochdale 'League Division One ''Utd's Ched Evans turns away to celebrate after scoring the blades 3rd goal and his 2nd Goal of the game,
Sheffield United vs Rochdale 'League Division One ''Utd's Ched Evans turns away to celebrate after scoring the blades 3rd goal and his 2nd Goal of the game,

Danny Wilson believes his Sheffield United side have now sussed out what it takes to escape a difficult and underrated division.

That, in turn, is vindicating his decision to build around much of the team that suffered relegation from the Championship rather than opt for major surgery.

Wilson has demonstrated a calm and even-handed approach by forging a winning line-up - boasting five back-to-back victories in all competitions - from players he inherited.

Only two of his signings - Kevin McDonald and Lecsinel Jean-Francois - are in the current line-up. There are varying reasons for that, injuries among them, and several others could still have major parts to play in the future.

While the manager’s detractors - a dwindling number - might be tempted to use the statistic against him, it is a strength of his character and leadership that he takes players at face value.

All have a genuine chance to succeed under him and he is not too proud to use those signed by predecessors.

While some managers seem to have an almost pathological need to put their own stamp on things, decrying what went before, Wilson has shown appreciation from day one of the experience and ability he inherited.

“Let’s face it, we didn’t pick up the worst squad in the world, did we?” he said this week. “What I did have to look at were areas in the squad where we were flimsy on numbers.

“And the ones we brought in are bringing, by being here, the best out of players in the side.”

Fundamentally, Wilson recognised an abundance of quality in the nucleus by electing to add competition rather than direct replacements - with the possible exception of striker Chris Porter, who is currently being edged out by Richard Cresswell’s success in partnership with top marksman Ched Evans.

He reflected: “When I came here the players were low on confidence, that’s all. Now they are finding their feet again and hitting a high standard of performance.

“There is always pressure on them to win handsomely and that is not always easy. League One is tough and Sheffield United haven’t been at this level for some time.

“It takes some coming to terms with, as other big clubs have found, but I think we are getting to grips with it now.”

Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth throws up the sort of passing contest United should relish, much as Wilson regards it as a “big test against a side with good young players.” He added: “Bournemouth are one of the better footballing sides. If the game is open I’d like to think we can give them as many problems as they give us.”

Meanwhile, the Blades boss is raising the possibility of extending James Beattie’s exploratory short-term deal back at Bramall Lane - as the striker continues to struggle for fitness.

“He’s still finding his calf a problem and isn’t back in training yet,” he said, following the bout of sickness revealed by the Telegraph last week. “It’s frustrating and a bit of a pain, as it is for James as well.”

Is time running out, bearing in mind the arrangement ends in mid-January? “It is and it isn’t,” said Wilson. “We can always extend it.”