A FURIOUS Chris Wilder accused his players of being arrogant and going off-plan after a humiliating FA Cup third round home defeat to National League Barnet, 84 places below Sheffield United in the football ladder.
The shocked Blades manager promised that he won’t be brushing what happened under the carpet and suggested that the players responsible for letting him down in a much changed side will not be getting a first team chance anytime soon.
“I wonder when they’re subs [not first choice] or when they’re sat behind me if they are on PlayStation or something like that because all you have to do is watch how the team that got us third in the division plays.” said Wilder.
He made ten changes to the line-up which had almost to a man secured a maximum nine points over the Christmas period and moved the Blades up to third in the Championship, two points from an automatic promotion spot and four behind leaders Leeds United.
But a lacklustre performance in front of a crowd of just over 9,000 enabled Barnet, relegated from the English Football League with Chesterfield last season and now sitting 15th in the National League, to inflict a shock 1-0 win and go into the fourth round draw.
Wilder said he felt “unbelievably let down and disappointed and angry. Our fans didn’t boo loud enough. The didn’t boo loud enough at me or boo loud enough at the players because I’ve got to say if I was up there [in the stands] today I would have got after our players. Because they were nowhere near the standard that I’ve set for Sheffield United footballers.
“The class part of it was that they gave the Barnet players an ovation, even though it wasn’t the biggest crowd we’ll have this year, and they showed their support for a team that fully deserved, absolutely 100 per cent [their victory]. I think in a way it could have been a little bit more embarrassing, but as it is it’s embarrassing enough.”
Undone by a 21st minute penalty scored by Shaquile Coulthirst after Blades defender Richard Steadman’s desperate challenge on Ephron Mason-Clark in the box, there was still more than an hour with added time of the tie remaining for United to recover and impose their superiority. But it didn’t happen. Indeed it was Barnet, whose caretaker manager is Darren Currie, nephew of the United’s Tony Curie, who looked the more dangerous. “You couldn't tell the difference between the teams, especially in the first half," said match-winner Coulthirst.
Bees captain Callum Reynolds “It's an unreal feeling. I mean, they're third in the Championship and we beat them at their ground. I can't believe it."
Allowing the Blades plenty of possession but defending manfully and looking far more threatening on counter-attacks. Such was United’s lack of penetration, Barnet goalkeeper Mark Cousins was forced into making only one serious save late in the tie.
“I’ve said to the players I didn’t think we were second best, I thought we were fourth and fifth best all over the pitch,” said Wilder. “We had to change the team. The players who have got us to third in the division [Championship] have put in an unbelievable shift in over the Christmas period and we had enough before the game on paper to get through this tie.
‘But the players went off plan, did their own thing, were arrogant in their play and deservedly get knocked out of the Cup.” Wilder sent on from the bench first team regulars Billy Sharp, Mark Duffy and Chris Basham to try and salvage the tie and although there was a marked improvement United still fell way short of what was expected.
Kieran Dowell, the England Under-21 midfielder just arrived from Everton will not forget his first experience in a Blades shirt and Wilder offered some sympathy to him and reserve goalkeeper Simon Moore.
“I feel really sorry for Kieran Dowell because in the first 20, 25 minutes he showed some great touches and he was part of a team that’s obviously not done very well. He’ll be a good player for us by the way.”
He added: “I feel a bit sorry for Simon because he nearly got his hand to the penalty and then he did what he had to do.”
The performance was not only shockingly disappointing in its own right, it was also a setback for Wilder who believed he had built a squad that offered good cover in all positions but with the January transfer window open may have to think again.
“I have to be careful I don’t take a wrecking ball to something we’ve pieced together quite carefully, intelligently and put a lot of work into it but those boys have got to do so much better. But if I have to [look for other players)]I will.”
Expressing his disappointment that those players who are on the fringe didn’t take the opportunity to put pressure on his future selection decisions, Wilder said: “We play with a freedom and a drive, which [today] wasn’t there, but we have a structure and it went out of the window through the arrogance of the players which is a disappointing thing to take as a manager.”
He added: “I had a half decent education and am quite bright so I would have thought they would go out there and go ‘problem time, manager, I’m going to give you a right problem today’.” He added: “They have to be ready and step in. Well they didn’t show a desire to be ready to step in.”
“They ain’t done no pushing today. They’ve basically taken a backward step and had a day off. It’s something I won’t forget for a long time.”