James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: How the Blades can rediscover their identity

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Another new season and, as now seems customary with Sheffield United, another new manager at the helm.

Chris Wilder’s conduct since taking charge earlier this summer already augers well. His common sense approach, combined with insider knowledge of the club having represented it as a player, suggest he is capable of succeeding where Nigel Adkins and, to a much lesser extent, Nigel Clough failed.

Chris Wilder wants to help Sheffield United rediscover their identity. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

Chris Wilder wants to help Sheffield United rediscover their identity. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

But over the course of a 46 match campaign, results will almost certainly dip at some point. So where will Wilder seek inspiration, advice and guidance when things start to go awry? Having worked at Halifax Town, Oxford and Northampton before returning to South Yorkshire, it almost certainly won’t be a legendary figure from Leith. But, after stressing the importance of rebuilding United’s identity, Bill Struth might not be a bad place to start.

Struth, the late, great Rangers manager, grew-up as a professional athlete. Having won 30 major trophies during his reign at Ibrox, he clearly knew a few things about football too. Central to the former runner’s success was his dictum that “no man is bigger than the club.” Which, after spending the past few weeks reading a fascinating book explaining Struth’s methods, set me thinking. Sixty years after his death, would they prove effective at Bramall Lane? In this day and age?

The answer, given some substantial tweaking, is probably yes. Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that Wilder demands his squad report for games sporting bowler hats or wear cravats whenever they are near the ground.

But here’s my idea, inspired by Struth, about how he can accelerate the process of increasing the aura around Bramall Lane: a book, detailing United’s story and achievements, handed to every single player.

Rangers have named the Bill Struth Stand in honour of their legendary manager

Rangers have named the Bill Struth Stand in honour of their legendary manager

It would confirm to those already in situ they are somewhere special. And for those who have only just arrived, provide a sense of place, pride and worth. A desire to try and emulate, even in the smallest of ways, the likes of Tony Currie, Brian Deane or United’s four FA Cup winning sides.

Okay, it might sound a little over-the-top, twee or melodramatic. But, given that Wilder only wants to surround himself with people who are ”totally committed to the cause” still seems worthwhile.

Ensuring that everyone who pulls on the red and white jersey at Bolton Wanderers tomorrow appreciates they are representing a historic institution can certainly do no harm.

New Sheffield United player John Fleck started his career at Ibrox

New Sheffield United player John Fleck started his career at Ibrox