Chris Wilder issued a firm reality check to Sheffield United after their 3-0 defeat to Newcastle – while admitting he can’t quite work out what has changed for his side.
The Blades had been one of the first teams to return after the three-month break when they played their game in hand against Aston Villa in midweek. However, they showed little sign of generating any momentum, as for the second game in a row, they failed to score.
The defeat does little good for their hopes of a European place, which looked within touching distance at the start of the week. While the battle is not over yet, Wilder admits that he has had enough of the talk of a potential challenge for a Champions League spot.
“I’m sick and tired of people talking about Europe and the Champions League,” Wilder said.
“It’s about working in the present and the present is that we’ve put in two bang-average performances this week.”
The challenge of getting a result at Newcastle became an uphill battle when John Egan was sent off for a second yellow card just after half-time.
Wilder was incredulous at the decisions that led to the sending off – claiming his counterpart Steve Bruce was too.
He explained: “John’s tried to take a quick free kick and the boy’s got hold of the ball, [ideally] the referee pushes both players away and gets on with it.
“Me and Steve were astonished that they got yellow cards. The second one was a definite yellow but [the first] is ridiculous, the game hasn’t changed that much and if so it’s in a worse place than it should be.
“Two boys showing a bit of angst against each other, and it wasn’t managed by referee. Does it play a part in the result? Of course, because we’re a man light and then we give away a poor goal.”
The Blades boss is disheartened to see his side emerge from lockdown seemingly weaker than they were before. And he urged them to step up after revealing what has disappointed him most.
“They were poor goals from our point of view. We looked a bit sorry for ourselves late on and that’s what disappoints me.
“We haven’t got a long time and I didn’t enjoy that, and the players understand that as well.
“Players need to give themselves a shake. We have to play at our maximum to get a result in this division and we usually have done all season.
“We can’t play at 75 per cent or in second gear, there might be periods when that happens but we have to be full at tilt and haven’t been.
“We’re just off the pace at the minute and I can’t put my finger on it.”