Wilson reins in a gallop for goals

Johnstones Paint 'Sheffield United vs Bradford City''Utd's dejected blades players at the end
Johnstones Paint 'Sheffield United vs Bradford City''Utd's dejected blades players at the end

Danny Wilson is having to rein in a gallop for goals that he believes is undermining Sheffield United’s home form in the league.

And what the Blades boss calls a “conundrum” could apply just as much to the FA Cup visit of Chris Wilder this weekend following the disappointment of a JP Trophy exit to Bradford City.

In nine league games at Bramall Lane this season, Wilson’s side have amassed 20 goals. Enough to have won all, or nearly all, of them.

But United have only a 55% success rate - five wins, accompanied by two defeats and two draws.

Wilson can point to the 14 goals his side have conceded but feels that a reckless tendency is just as applicable to their hunger for goals.

Of course, he came in on a ticket of serving up a purer, more entertaining brand of football and in this he has succeeded. Now it’s a question of getting the balance right.

“We’re trying to win games at home and get more goals which at times are possibly not there,” Wilson told the Telegraph.

“It’s great to give pleasure to the fans but this has cost us at times. And it’s hurt us. You want to play football but you want to win games as well.

“There has to be a winning streak and there have been a few occasions when we haven’t provided it.”

The greatest example is fresh in the memory - the chaotic 4-4 draw with Exeter, a game United effectively won and then chucked away. With form on the road becoming a touch precarious, the Blades need to assert themselves on their own patch where Bradford edged Tuesday’s tie on penalties.

Losing Blackpool loan pair Matt Phillips and Billy Clarke also suggests a tweaking of approach amid the need to reinject pace to the side.

This applies just as much in the Cup, a

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competition that becomes far more prestigious at United’s current level and provides major cash incentives for a club facing another round of wage issues in the January window.

Oxford, seventh in League Two, are dangerous opponents who will not be under-estimated by anyone at Bramall Lane.

l The Cup brings a great flashback to the time of Dave Bassett - once Wilder’s boss at the Blades - and Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25 years at Manchester United all rolled into one.

Feel free to rock and roll in the aisles as Bassett - by way of commemorating Fergie’s landmark - recalls incurring the great man’s wrath.

It’s hilarious with the passing of years even if it was pretty uncomfortable for Bassett at the time. That time was January, 1995 ahead of Manchester United visiting Bramall Lane in the FA Cup. . .and the row erupted from national newspaper preview coverage that this reporter, as a freelance writer, was party to.

Bassett now tells me: “You might not expect a fellow manager to know what it’s like to be on the end of the Fergie hairdryer treatment - but believe me, I do.

“I’ve always got on with Alex over the years but there was this was one time when he went raving mad at me - all over a misunderstanding. Before the game you press boys had asked me whether we could put Alex’s players under pressure a bit and maybe even intimidate them.

“I said: ‘Are you xxxxxx joking? Look, they’ve got Keane, Hughes, Scholes, Cantona - not to mention Steve Bruce. They’re not exactly a bunch of wimps, are they?’

“I made the point that United could look after themselves and at the time I thought I was bumming them up. But the headlines before the game said I’d branded them as ‘hard men.’ Not that I was stitched up by you lot. I had no worries over those headlines - I’d just given an answer to a question.

“So when Alex phoned me on the morning of the game I thought he was just wanting tickets. Then he went absolutely xxxxing mad. He was ranting and raving and, strange to say of me, I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. He said I’d accused his team of being dirty and that I was playing mind games. I tried to explain, but he was seething and put the phone down.

“Well, United beat us and Alex came into my office for a drink after the game. By then he’d calmed down. I was able to explain that I was being complimentary in that he had players who could battle as well as play. He was as good as gold after that.

“And that’s the only time we’ve had an altercation. Alex was good enough to present me with a trophy after I’d achieved 1,000 games as a manager. His career has been phenomenal and we will never see the likes of him again.”