Capped by his country, praised by Pele and recognised as Sheffield United’s greatest ever player, Tony Currie knows a thing or two about football.
But the former England international has admitted it was a chance conversation with the late Alan Hodgkinson, another legendary figure at Bramall Lane, which first alerted him to Chris Wilder’s potential as a manager.
“I always remember Hodgy telling me ‘watch out for this lad because he’s got the ability to go all the way.’ And when someone like him says that then you listen. They were working together at Oxford and I know Alan was really impressed by what he’d seen.”
Hodgkinson’s faith in Wilder’s ability proved well-founded as, after leading the club out of the Conference, he lifted last season’s League Two title with Northampton Town. Those achievements, which followed successful spells at both Halifax and Alfreton, prompted United to unveil him as Nigel Adkins’ replacement last week.
Wilder, a lifelong supporter of the South Yorkshire club, has been at pains to point out that sentiment played no part in his appointment. But Currie believes the importance of those emotional ties - Wilder also represented United as a player - should not be underestimated.
“Yes, Chris has got the job because he shown himself to be damn good at what he does. But, at the same time, I also think it helps that he’s a Blade through and through as well. How can it not? Chris knows what the fans here want because he’s a fan himself. Neil Warnock was the same and it didn’t do him any harm did it.
“I don’t mean this in a critical way because everybody has got their own way of doing things and that’s completely fair enough. But having Chris here should get us back to doing what we do best. It should bring some of the identity back and that, for me, is important.”
Currie, described as a “brilliant talent” by Pele when the Brazilian visited Bramall Lane nine years ago, explained why.
“If you’ve got that passion coming from the manager then, make no mistake, that really resonates in the dressing room. Chris knows what a great club this is, he knows the history and he knows why we should all be proud to be a part of it. Speaking from experience, if you’ve got anything about you, then that should make a real impression if you are a player.”
Currie, who made nearly 400 appearances for United before joining Leeds in 1976, added: “Chris will need time and he’ll need backing, the same as any other manager. But I’m excited about the future and I think he’s got the qualities and the ability to do it.”
*Currie will be manager Sean Bean’s assistant when a Blades Legends XI faces the Fulham All-Stars at Bramall Lane (kick-off 1pm) tomorrow. Tickets, priced £7 adults and £3 concessions, are available from the box office, online at www.sufc.talent-sport.co.uk or by telephoning 0114 253 7200. Chris Morgan, Brian Deane, Tony Agana, Paul Peschisolido, Carl Asaba and Leigh Bromby are also taking part, alongside boxer Joe Calzaghe and comedian Jack Whitehall.