Chris Wilder has warned Sheffield United they will need to start scrapping their way out of Premier League trouble sooner rather than later if they are to avoid the need for a miracle.
The Blades will head into Christmas rooted firmly to the foot of the table, still awaiting a first win and having drawn just two of their opening 14 games to leave themselves 10 points adrift of safety.
However, Wilder is convinced the fight which has dragged the club from League One just four seasons ago into the company of English football’s aristocrats remains ahead of a tough Boxing Day clash with Everton.
Asked if they need a Christmas miracle, he said: “The odds are there for a reason, but the odds are always there to be beaten as well. The season doesn’t finish after 15, 20 games so as long as there are games to play, then we have a situation where we can pick up points – and who knows what happens above us?
“Of course looking at the points tally and the gap, we’ve got to obviously claw our way back into the fight first and foremost. But there are enough games to do that.
“What we have shown here at this football club is that there is a big fight in us always, a fight to get into the Premier League, a fight to stay in the Premier League in our first season and now a huge fight to do the same.
“We can do it, but obviously over this period, we need to do it sooner rather than later and give ourselves a chance.”
The Blades will welcome Carlo Ancelotti’s men to Bramall Lane having seen them recover from a blip to win their last three league games, and well aware of the part old boy Dominic Calvert-Lewin played in their flying start to the campaign.
Calvert-Lewin has 14 goals to date for the Toffees this season and two more for England, and the man who took him to former club Northampton on loan earlier in his career and saw him sold to Everton just months after his arrival back in their shared home city has been delighted with his progress since.
Wilder said: “It was a difficult time for us to hold on to Dominic, but opportunities have opened up there and he’s taken them, not just at club level, but at international level and I’m delighted that he has.
“He’s a Sheffield boy and somebody who thinks a lot about this football club, and it’s great to watch his progression through the last two or three years.”