“Do we want to be contenders or pretenders?” That was the question Chris Wilder asked his Sheffield United players.
It raised a few chuckles among the squad as they listened to their boss at the Blades’ training base. Yet Wilder was making a serious point.
“There are some really good clubs ahead of us who have done great, but we’re in and amongst it. We’ve told the players not to be frightened of it and not to take a step back from it,” the United manager told the Sheffield Star.
“They had a bit of a chuckle when I asked them the question but it’s the right way to go about it.
“People say that we shouldn’t be where we are, and maybe we shouldn’t, but we are, so let’s give it a right go.”
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Are United promotion contenders?
The talk from Wilder preceded the 2-1 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion. It was the Blades’ second successive loss at Bramall Lane and saw them drop to fifth place.
Wilder’s men are eight points off leaders Leeds United having won twice in their last seven Championship outings. Yet they have four more games between now and New Year’s Day that might define their promotion chances.
The run starts with a trip to bottom placed Ipswich Town on Saturday – who have won just twice all season. It also includes facing newly promoted Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic. United should be targeting victory in all three.
The only potentially tricky fixture is the visit of Derby County to South Yorkshire on Boxing Day. The Rams are currently one place and one point ahead of the Blades.
However, if United are serious about their push for the Premier League they have to start beating those around them too.
By the time they face Barnet in the third round of the FA Cup more than half the campaign will have gone. And we might have a clearer picture of their promotion chances.