Chris Wilder called his Sheffield United players “League One/Championship” following their 2-0 defeat to Leicester City.
It would be fair to say that Wilder wasn’t happy with the performance at the King Power Stadium, criticising his team throughout his post-match interview.
Yet has Wilder just fallen into the trap that several pundits and so-called experts have been guilty of when assessing the Blades?
Prior to the season starting, talkSPORT Drive presenter Adrian Durham called captain Billy Sharp “League One”. Durham added that all United were doing is “signing Championship players”.
Wilder pinned those comments on the dressing room wall to motivate his side. Now he seems to be saying the same thing.
“It seemed like they just wanted to do the minimum and we certainly can’t do that as a football club,” Wilder told the club’s media after the game.
“The max has to be the max, because they’re basically League One/Championship players playing in the Premier League.
“So if they want to go their own way and go about it in the manner they want to go about it, then they’re going to keep producing performances like that.”
Are ‘League One’ comments from Wilder a step too far?
It may seem a little harsh for Wilder to be so tough on the players considering the position they are in. With two Premier League matches remaining in 2019/20 they are currently eighth in the table and guaranteed at least a top 10 finish.
Not bad for their first top flight campaign in 12 years, right? Well certainly, but they have achieved that through a strong work ethic and tactical cohesion.
Wilder expects to see that until the final fixture of the season. Yet calling out the players like this in public isn’t something new from the 52-year-old.
And almost without exception, there is a positive reaction in the very next game.
When the Blades were knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Barnet last term, Wilder called his team “arrogant” and said there “wasn’t a word bad enough” to describe their display.
At the time they were third in the Championship. The next match they beat QPR and kick-started their rise to the automatic promotion places.
When on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson made the mistake that resulted in the only goal in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool earlier this season, Wilder didn’t pull any punches.
“I’m not going to put my arm around him,” he said afterwards. “He wants to play at the highest level, he wants to play for Manchester United, he wants to play for England. He’s got to do a bit better, he’s got to concentrate a bit more.”
In the very next match Henderson put in a man-of-the-match performance at Watford.
Wilder isn’t just passing the blame. When he gets it wrong he admits it. And when his players deserve praise they receive it.
Expect a positive reaction to these comments, starting with the home tie against Everton on Monday.