When the final whistle blew and the curtain came down on what has been a truly memorable season, Chris Wilder paused for a moment before glancing towards the sky.
Family had been thanked. Close friends and confidants likewise.
But, after Sheffield United had officially been crowned League One champions, Wilder remembered the man responsible for setting in motion the chain of events which yesterday culminated in the greatest achievement of his managerial career.
“I love seeing the old boys here,” Wilder said. “And another one that won’t go amiss for me is Hodgy (Alan Hodgkinson). He played an important part for me.”
Wilder worked closely with Hodgkinson at Oxford; the club where he first rose to prominence following a successful but gruelling spell in charge of Halifax Town. The former England goalkeeper, who made nearly 700 appearances for United between 1954 and 1971, used his influence to get Wilder an interview when Darren Patterson was sacked in 2008 and, two years later, was a member of his coaching staff when the Conference play-off title was won.
“Jim Smith was part of the interview process at Oxford and he knew Hodgy,” Wilder continued. “I had a connection with Oxford playing Halifax and he was part of that opportunity for me to go there. He worked with me for four or five years.
“I got a lovely card from Brenda, his wife, and unfortunately he passed away a couple of years ago. But hopefully, he’ll have a great sense of pride because he’s an iconic figure here. Invariably, on long away trips, the talk would get around to Sheffield United and the great players he worked with here.”
Wilder, a lifelong United supporter, cut an emotional figure when his squad were presented with their winners medals following yesterday’s game against Chesterfield. But, as he begins planning for a Championship future, the 49-year-old also took time to thank other figures from the past.
“So whether it’s Hodgy, TC (Tony Currie), Badge (Len Badger) or Ted (Hemsley),” he said, “Whether it’s Brads (Carl Bradshaw), Gagey (Kevin Gage), Chris Morgan, Brian Deane and Keith (Edwards), it’s important people recognise lads who are part of our history. This is a special football club and it’s about the people, including the fans.”