Chris Wilder insisted Sheffield United’s players are not exempt from criticism after he publicly rebuked their performance during Saturday’s draw with Gillingham.
Despite emphasising he still “believes” in the League One leaders’ ability to win promotion, Wilder’s frustration boiled over when a combination of wasteful finishing and careless defending saw them blow a chance to establish a nine point lead over third-placed Bolton Wanderers.
I didn’t go mad last week but I have now. And I don’t care what people thinkChris Wilder
“I’m not going to act like other managers have acted here,” he said. “That’s the way I am. The players have been outstanding but I’m not here to protect them. I believe in the players, they are good players but they aren’t exempt from criticism. I’m not either.
“Listen, accept the plaudits when you go down town or whatever when people are patting you on the back. But also accept that, when you don’t perform to your ability, a little bit is going to get put on you. They’re men. Just get on with it. I’m not putting it all on their toes. But just get on with it.”
Wilder’s post-match comments are significant given his previously conciliatory approach since taking charge during the close season. Having refused to “beat the lads up” following their defeat by Walsall earlier this month, the 49-year-old will be hoping they produce a positive response when United return to action against fourth-placed Fleetwood Town tomorrow evening.
Leading at half-time following Billy Sharp’s 18th goal of the season, United ended-up relying on Kieron Freeman to restore parity after Josh Wright had scored twice for the visitors.
“We’ve only got ourselves to blame,” Wilder continued. “I didn’t go mad last week but I have now. And I don’t care what people think. No disrespect to the opposition, they are professional footballers, a proud bunch with careers in the game and I expect teams to come here and have a go. But we’ve thrown away two big points.”
“If we’d come out and started the second-half properly, then we could have possibly blown the opposition away,” Wilder added. “I waited at half-time to watch a few of their boys come off and I thought they looked a little bit shell-shocked with how it had gone. But in the second, I thought we were big time. We just thought ‘it’s going to happen.’ And it didn’t, did it.”