Sunderland are using Sheffield United as their blueprint to try and get promoted from League One, reports The Northern Echo.
When Black Cats manager Phil Parkinson decided to change his system last season, he looked to the Blades for inspiration.
Which shouldn’t be too surprising, considering Chris Wilder’s men won the League One title themselves with 100 points in 2016/17. It came after Wilder switched to his overlapping centre-back system.
It’s something which has served the 53-year-old well ever since. United went up from the Championship two years later and last season finished ninth in their first Premier League campaign in 12 years.
Parkinson is now looking to use Wilder’s side to try and inspire a similar feat. When Sunderland’s season was cut short post-lockdown and they knew they’d be spending a third successive year in the third tier, he told his players to watch the Blades.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are another top flight team Parkinson’s squad were asked to observe, as they also play a wing-back formation.
Sunderland defender explains Blades influence in League One
The system that Parkinson deploys isn’t quite the same as Wilder’s, of course. But the influence is clear – as Denver Hume explains.
“If you look at Sheffield United and how they play, it probably is a bit similar to us,” the 22-year-old said.
“Obviously not exactly the same. They’ve been playing it longer than us and are better in some parts – which is why they’re in the Premier League.
“But teams like that. Wolves play it as well. Watching them and taking bits from players in your position and seeing what they do and what works well for them.”
Hume plays at left wing-back for the Black Cats. The 22-year-old is an academy product and has impressed so far this term to help Sunderland to an unbeaten start in the league. They are currently seventh in the table.