Alan Biggs: You can add Leon Clarke to the list of Wilder’s wonders

Leon Clarke scores the second against Port Vale. Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Leon Clarke scores the second against Port Vale. Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Want to know about man-management? Well, take someone who has remarkably played for no fewer than 17 clubs, some of them twice and including loans, during a nomadic career.

A possible clue there to the scale of the managerial undertaking.

He’s a summer signing, a striker, one of the biggest names recruited. A proven goal scorer but carrying some baggage around. Literally.

After 19 appearances, without a convincing run in the side, he’s got just three goals. There’ve been rumours, rightly or wrongly, that he and the club’s star striker, also the captain, either can’t play together or don’t get on.

Then he’s sidelined by injury and his boss brings in a similar type of striker during the January window, albeit one who’s had a long and loyal career at his only previous club.

It’s now that some observers, including this one, start to wonder if it is already the end of the road for Leon Clarke at Sheffield United.

But Chris Wilder emphatically says not, insisting 32-year-old Clarke – who numbers Sheffield Wednesday among his many former clubs – WILL have a part to play.

And so he does!

Five goals in four games in the rampage to promotion and the League One Championship.

Whatever the future holds, that is damn good management.

You can certainly now add the Clarke rehabilitation to the revivalist success of Kieron Freeman and Paul Coutts as examples of Wilder’s expert handling of individuals, underpinning the collective magnificence of the League One champions.

I’ve no doubt that, even after the goal frenzy of this season, the strike department, along with others, will be itemised for a little strengthening this summer in the normal course of a club rising in status.

But one thing you’d never do under this management is write off ANY of the players who have brought the team up.

And in the case of Clarke, he’s scored goals freely at Championship level in the past – for Wolves and Wednesday.

His 126 career goals, at a ratio approaching one in three, will always make him attractive to clubs, particularly those in the lower divisions. But a far bigger challenge may now await – and the same applies to the many other heroes of a simply brilliant Bramall Lane campaign.

That’s because Wilder will know the spirit of the group has to be protected above all. Not weakened by supposed strengthening if new players are the wrong sort. What United have now is bigger than any individual. Present - or future.