DANNY Wilson has denied being a fully paid-up member of the campaign to prevent old-fashioned wingers disappearing from the English game.
But the Sheffield United manager, who bolstered his attacking options by signing Bolton Wanderers youngster Michael O’Halloran earlier this week, is determined to promote the virtues of a position which, despite becoming increasingly redundant in coaching circles, still captures the imagination of footballing romantics.
With Ryan Flynn - by Wilson’s own admission the only “out and out wide man” on Bramall Lane’s books until O’Halloran’s arrival - also hoping to emerge as an influential figure along League One’s finishing straight, the former Northern Ireland international now finds himself with greater room for manoeuvre in a midfield boosted by the recent return of playmaker Kevin McDonald from injury.
Lee Williamson and Stephen Quinn, who started their careers operating in more central roles, have been deployed on the flanks for long periods of a campaign and Wilson said: “Quinny and Willo have done ever so well out there even though they probably like to cut inside.
“They’ve given us good width and they’ve been asked to go out there a lot before, Quinny in particular, so it’s not as if they don’t know what they’re doing because quite clearly they do.
“But I do like what you’d call an out and out winger. That’s why we brought Flynny in; as well as the fact that he’s a hugely talented youngster.
“It’s always good to have options and that’s what these lads give us. Michael can play through the middle or out wide.”
O’Halloran, aged 21, is 28 months younger than his compatriot, Flynn. The latest addition to United’s growing celtic contingent, the Scotland under-21 international has featured twice at senior level for Wanderers this term and, according to Wilson, possesses “blistering pace”.
Keith Edwards, the legendary United striker who scored 171 goals in 293 starts for the South Yorkshire club, last night endorsed Wilson’s decision to try and stretch opposition teams.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s 5-2 victory at Notts County, which saw United remain second in the League One table with eight matches left to play, Edwards, who once formed a devastating partnership with winger Colin Morris, said: “We saw at Meadow Lane what playing with width can do.
“Quinny and Williamson might not be a traditional wingers but they stayed out wide and that gave Kevin McDonald the choice of spreading play either left or right when
ever he was on the ball. Wingers are being asked to defend an awful lot more these days, especially because so many people favour a 4-4-2 system, and that’s fine.
“But it’s still important to have the ability to change direction and, as a centre-forward, it’s also really beneficial to have people in your team who can stretch things.”
“It’s not only about putting crosses into the box that you can attack,” Edwards
added. “Because different forwards like different kinds of service.
“Because Quinny and Lee stayed out wide at County, it pulled their full-backs away from their centre-halves and that created even more space for Ched (Evans) to work in.”
Wilson could hand O’Halloran, who recently signed a new contract at the Reebok Stadium, his United debut when they entertain Chesterfield on Wednesday.
“That’s going to be a very tough game,” said Wilson. “But I would imagine Chesterfield will be saying exactly the same thing as us going into it.”