(Reuters) - Sheffield United have defied expectations in the Premier League this season, and manager Chris Wilder is hoping his team have enough left in the tank to make their campaign a truly memorable one by qualifying for European competition next season.
The Blades were widely tipped for relegation after winning promotion last season, but have consistently punched above their weight and sit seventh in the table.
United resume their campaign at relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Wednesday, having not played since the league was suspended three months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got some fuel in the tank for the Ford Fiesta and the tyres are pumped up. With a bit of luck we push the Lamborghinis close,” Wilder told the Times.
“Hopefully, we can turn a fabulous season into a memorable one.”
Three months without football has been hard on a personal level, the 52-year-old added.
“I’ve been a nightmare,” Wilder said. “How I’ve not been booted out into the back bedroom... I’ve been a manager for 20 years and in the game since I was 16, so being out of it for three months has been really difficult.”
The team, however, are in good shape and fired up for the restart.
“Our message to the players was that this was a pause,” Wilder added. “It wasn’t a period for downing tools.
“They have climbed the mountain and come the restart we didn’t want them falling off the cliff. They’ve kept themselves in great shape.”
The next obstacle is a Villa side who are second-bottom and fighting for survival.
“I’m sure (Villa manager) Dean Smith will be fired up,” Wilder said. “I don’t know if it will be good entertainment or Keystone Cops, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson