Being recognised by his peers as one of the country’s most accomplished managers was just reward for Chris Wilder’s efforts at Bramall Lane last term.
But, after leading Sheffield United to promotion at the first time of asking, the 49-year-old has insisted it would be a mistake to underestimate the contributions his backroom staff made to the club’s success on the pitch.
“I dragged everybody into that,” Wilder, recollecting the moment he was named League One manager of the year by the LMA, laughed. “I had to drag them all down to London.
“I collected the award but, really, it was for the staff. The players had more than enough credit. Really, they shouldn’t be getting anymore.”
Wilder’s comments, despite being tinged with irony, strike at the heart of what makes his regime tick; togetherness, respect, hard work and focus underpinned, regular visitors to the Steelphalt Academy will tesify, by witty repartee. It is for precisely that reason United’s board of directors opened contracts talks with assistant manager Alan Knill after Wilder verbally agreed his own improved deal last month. Negeotiations with other members of the staff are expected to follow as Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, United’s co-owners, aim the keep the whole group intact.
“The staff are fantastic to work with,” Wilder continued. “We work collectively and together. I didn’t just bring all my own staff in. I knew (goalkeeping coach) Darren Ward and the other guys. It was about how could we maximise our efforts. We feel we’ve been able to do that. The awards are based on everyone, what the group as a whole does.”
Wilder will expect United’s new signings - Ched Evans, Enda Stevens, George Baldock and Nathan Thomas - to demonstrate they have bought into his philosophy when their squad travels to Marbella for warm weather training next week. The trip, which follows Saturday’s friendly at Stocksbridge Park Steels (kick-off 3pm), culminates with a fixture against Malaga of Spain’s Primera División.
“We’re big on the team here,” Wilder, who took charge of United 11 months before they were crowned League One champions, said. “And everybody has to buy in to that. As I’ve made pretty clear before, on a number of occasions to be fair, you are either in or you are out. There’s no half way house. It doesn’t work like that with us.”
“The people we look to bring in aren’t just players we think can improve us,” Wilder continued. “They’re good characters too.”