Diamond not surprised by Sheffield United's '˜relentless' march to promotion
Zander Diamond has not been surprised by Sheffield United's relentless march towards promotion and the Sky Bet League One title under former Cobblers boss Chris Wilder.
The Blades arrive at Sixfields on Saturday sitting six points clear at the top of the table and needing just one win to guarantee promotion to the Championship after six long years in the third tier of English football.
They have put together a 12-match unbeaten run just when it mattered, winning eight of those games, and Diamond knows all too well the pressure Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill will be exerting on those Blades players.
He knows the United players will be under strict instructions ‘to keep the hammer down’ - just as Diamond and the Cobblers were last year.
Promoted by April 9, champions by April 16, there was no easing off as Town remained unbeaten for the rest of the campaign to win the title by 13 points.
And Diamond says Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill will be demanding the same from their Sheffield United players this season.
“You wouldn’t expect anything less from a Chris and Alan team,” said Diamond.
“They want to get as many points on the board as possible, similar to us last season when you could have said we were near enough promoted in March.
“But every game he wanted to win, and didn’t taper off. We were relentless.
“We could have took the foot off the gas at the end of the season, but we kept going and kept going.
“Chris will be striving to get promoted as soon as possible, and then to get as many points as possible on the board.”
Signed by Wilder on loan from Burton Albion in February 2014 as the Cobblers battled for their Football League survival, Diamond has gone on to play 120 times in the claret and white.
He was a key cog in last season’s title success, and has been outstanding in league one this season.
The Scotsman is looking forward to seeing Wilder this weekend, who will be making his first return to Sixfields as a manager since leaving the club last May.
Diamond is a big admirer of his ex-boss, saying ‘he is right up there’ when it comes to managers he has worked with in his 14-year career.
So what is the secret to his success?
“It was all about winning games, that is the basic of it,” said the 32-year-old.
“In training, day in, day out, week in, week out, he doesn’t accept second best or sloppiness.
“He has a drive and determination to get every last drop of energy out of you as a team, as an individual, and you can see that from last season and from this season.
“It is no surprise that he has gone to Sheffield United and done good things, and it is nice to see.
“The pressures that come with managing a big club like that, and it is added to as he is from Sheffield and is a Sheffield United fan, and it is great for him.
“To have worked under a guy who got the best out of me as a player, it is nice to see him doing good things.”
And where does he rate in the list of managers Diamond has played for on his 14-year career?
“He is right up there. To win a league at any stage is great, but to win it by a country mile was fantastic.
“We were relentless and his regular quote was ‘keep the hammer down’, and we seemed to do that every week in training, and in matches and it was just a pleasure.
“He brought me to this football club and I have nothing but goof things to say about him, so I wish him all the best.”
But as good as the reception is going to be for Wilder from all at Sixfields, Diamond and his team-mates know they have a job to do and are keen to get one over their old boss.
“It is another game for us to go and test ourselves, and you don’t want anybody winning anything on your patch, no matter what it is,” he said.
“So we will be going out to give a good account of ourselves.”