Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder had little time for reflection at the end of a stellar 2019 for his club.
The Blades were an outside bet for automatic promotion from the Sky Bet Championship 12 months ago but on Thursday they take on Liverpool at Anfield from a position of comfort in the top half of the Premier League.
Wilder’s side have continued to defy the odds – they lost for the first time in almost a year on the road at Manchester City on Sunday – but the former Oxford and Northampton manager preferred to look forward at the turn of the year.
“There’s a fantastic future ahead for the football club, we’ve put ourselves in a great position,” Wilder said.
“But I’m never one to sit back and admire and my staff aren’t and my players won’t.
“We’ve got some huge challenges in the new year and ones we are really looking forward to.”
The first of those is against Jurgen Klopp’s champions-elect, who were given a real scare by the Blades at Bramall Lane in September when Georginio Wijnaldum’s fumbled shot clinched them a narrow win.
Liverpool have since surged clear in the title race but no challenge is a lost cause as far as Wilder is concerned.
“Going to Anfield, iconic stadium, fabulous experience, everything that Liverpool bring to the English game,” he said.
“They are the most powerful, historic of clubs in our game and going so well.
“But we’d like to put a little bump in their road, as we tried to do at Manchester City.”
The Blades have beaten Arsenal and drawn with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United this season and are in contention for European football next season.
“I always think time for reflection is at the end of the season and time to reflect on a career is when you finish,” Wilder added.
“But I think certainly the club has done a hell of a lot of good things in this calendar year.
“A terrific campaign in the Championship with Norwich and Leeds United. We shouldn’t have been anywhere near it, but we were.
“Then to get into the Premier League and off we go on a new journey, a new experience, and so far we’ve handled it very, very well.
“There’s still a lot of work to put in and a lot of games to go, so we’re not sat here comfortable.
“We can be happy with what we’ve done in 2019, but certainly the key is to kick on into the new year and keep improving.”
Liverpool-born midfielder John Lundstram hopes to recover from an ankle injury in time to feature at Anfield, while otherwise Wilder will select from a fully-fit squad.
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