Sheffield United need ‘one big moment’ to spark recovery – Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder has urged his Sheffield United players to draw inspiration from the team which beat the drop 30 years ago after a similarly terrible start to the season.

A 2-0 loss at Crystal Palace on Saturday meant the Blades have now set a new record for the longest winless run at the beginning of a Premier League campaign.

Bottom-of-the-table United have two points after 17 games, but Wilder has been in a similar situation before during the 1990-91 term.

Under the stewardship of Dave Bassett, the newly-promoted Blades started life in the top flight with no victory from their first 16 fixtures, but once they got off the mark the shackles were off and they eventually finished in 13th position to stay up comfortably.

On what his players need to do, Wilder said: “It has to come from within. It’s not going to come from outside, it’s got to come from players finding a big moment, a big half of football and finding a big result.

“The 17th game of that season 30 years ago it was similar. They were tight games and without looking at the record books I can’t imagine they were games where we were blasted out the water.

“There was a togetherness which we’re seeing still to compete and do their best, but obviously it takes a hit with every game that goes by without that result. That group were tight, which they are now, and got that one win which set them off and it’s as basic as that.

Sheffield United players react as Jeffrey Schlupp and Crystal Palace celebrate their first goal
Sheffield United players react as Jeffrey Schlupp and Crystal Palace celebrate their first goal

“People are looking at everything from what the changing room’s like to the attitude, the selection, everything, and I get that. I understand criticism.

“It comes with one big moment, one big performance, one big result as it did in that period 30 years ago which resulted in the team winning a few games in the second half of the season. That’s all we have to look for.”

This group will have to wait a little longer to end their barren run of form in the top flight, with the Blades in FA Cup action on Saturday away to Sky Bet League One outfit Bristol Rovers.

Wilder insisted nine players were unavailable for the clash at Palace and while unsure if any will return next weekend, he discussed a positive from the defeat.

An incredible moment for Antwoine. 👏

He makes his @premierleague debut at the age of 16.

— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) January 2, 2021

There was a debut late on for 16-year-old Antwoine Hackford, who became the club’s youngest player in the Premier League and almost scored when a close-range effort was blocked on the line by Joel Ward.

“We’ll just keep assessing (the missing players) all the way. There’s obviously some long-term ones in there. I’m not going to disclose too much about that,” Wilder revealed.

“To lose nine players, especially in the Premier League and in the form we’re in, it’s certainly not going to give us the best opportunity of a result in this division.

“You’re looking around and scratching your head at what you can do off the bench. I suppose one of the bright spots is Antwoine getting on to the pitch as a 16-year-old player. I’m delighted for him.”

First-half goals from Jeffrey Schlupp and Ebere Eze saw Palace return to winning ways for the first time since December 6.

Jeffrey Schlupp, centre right, scores Crystal Palace’s first goal against Sheffield United
Jeffrey Schlupp, centre right, scores Crystal Palace’s first goal against Sheffield United

After recent heavy defeats to Liverpool and Aston Villa, Roy Hodgson’s side bounced back with a draw at home to Leicester on Monday before they produced a professional display against the Blades.

Defender James Tomkins felt Schlupp’s fourth-minute opener was key, and added: “The manager said we had to take the second half against Leicester into the first half of this one.

“In the Premier League, you can’t start slowly – go a goal down or two and it’s a long way back, so we did well.

“We knew it was going to be a bit of a battle. They wanted to get their first win on the board and we didn’t want it to be against us so we had to start brightly and get that first goal.”