Chris Wilder has told his Sheffield United players they already have “nothing to lose” in their bid to beat the Premier League drop.
The Blades are only the third team in top-flight history to reach Boxing Day without a victory, after Burnley in 1889-90 and Bolton in 1902-03.
Sheffield United have lost 13 and drawn two of their 15 league matches in a dispiriting second campaign in the Premier League, but Wilder is refusing to throw in the towel.
Wilder concedes that many neutral observers will already have his Blades nailed-on for relegation, but the 53-year-old insists it is not too late to turn the tide.
“We’ve got nothing to lose; everybody in the game will look at our position and say we’re buried,” said Wilder.
“So there’s nothing to lose, we might as well go for it and that’s my message to the players. And they have to take that on board.
“There’s loads more pressure on the teams above us, and there really shouldn’t be any pressure on us.
“People over the last two or three years wouldn’t have expected us to do what we’ve done.
“We’re only going to do it with players who can show a strength of character and a freedom to try to express themselves, and to be able to say ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen’.
“Well, yes, everyone knows what the worst thing that can happen is – but the best thing that can happen is that you come out of this having defied incredible odds.
“And then all those critics and statistics get chucked out of the window, and they have to take that on board.”
The Blades will head to Burnley on Tuesday still itching to get their Premier League season off the ground, with Wilder maintaining confidence – and upholding the fighting talk.
“We’re always underdogs, this club always has been – and we thrive on that,” said Wilder.
“But the players have got to play in a fashion that gives you an opportunity of winning games.
“We’re still striving and we’re still desperate for that one big performance, that one big result.”