Sports Retro: A look back at some of Sheffield United’s longer-serving managers over the years

Ian Porterfield, Sheffield United Manager - 16th May 1984
Ian Porterfield, Sheffield United Manager - 16th May 1984
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When Nigel Clough was sacked by Sheffield United, it was another blow for any hope of longevity at Bramall Lane.

The managerial position in S2 has become the football equivalent of a temping job with little time - or need - for the incumbent to get their feet under the table before the revolving door opens once again.

John Harris leaves Sheffield United FC -5th August 1977

John Harris leaves Sheffield United FC -5th August 1977

However, it is not a recent phenomenon with United. Since John Harris was appointed manager for the second time in August 1969 only he and five others have lasted two years or longer at the Blades helm.

Dave Bassett is United’s longest-serving manager in modern times, the Londoner enjoying a rollercoaster seven years and 11 months at Bramall Lane.

Then comes Neil Warnock followed by Ian Porterfield, Harris, Harry Haslam and Kevin Blackwell who spent two and a half years with United.

Danny Wilson was just short of two years before being unceremoniously ushered out in April 2013 but other than that, United’s recent managerial history is more measured by tenures of months rather than years.

Ian Porterfield (right) with Derek Dooley and Reg Brealey'c1984

Ian Porterfield (right) with Derek Dooley and Reg Brealey'c1984

Bassett was appointed in January 1988 after an ill-fated five-month spell at Watford.

Reg Brealey was chairman at that time and he left Bassett under no illusion as to what he would find at Bramall Lane - no money, large debts, a team that was hovering precariously in 18th in the then Division Two and a playing staff that offered little in the way of optimism for the future.

Such was Bassett’s enthusiasm that Derek Dooley - by then on the board of directors - said: “He’s more than a breath of fresh air: he’s more like a hurricane. He could even have got me playing for him and I’ve only got one leg!” It is doubtful Bassett would have lasted these days given United went down that first season.

However, he rebuilt in the close season, bringing in new players which included the likes of a gangly striker called Brian Deane, bought from Doncaster for £40,000.

Harry Haslam, Sheffield United Manager - 1978

Harry Haslam, Sheffield United Manager - 1978

And so began an adventure at Bramall Lane. Runners-up the following season, they charged through Division Two, culminating in promotion at Leicester. There were off-field wobbles along the way: Brealey had issues with his business in India although an Iraqi called Sam Hashimi appeared on the scene with promises of cash to invest before the deal was called off.

There were various ongoing boardroom battles and Bassett put his own money into the club, all the while keeping United in the top flight.

Deane scored the first Premier League goal against Manchester United in August 1992, the season finishing with United in ninth, before an FA Cup semi-final against neighbours Wednesday in April 1993.

The adventure ended in May 1994, an injury-time goal by Mark Stein consigning them to defeat at Chelsea and relegation from the Premier League.

Harry Haslam (centre), Manager of Sheffield United - 9th July 1979'Sheffield United players report back.

Harry Haslam (centre), Manager of Sheffield United - 9th July 1979'Sheffield United players report back.

United were eighth the following season and when Brealey sold up to Mike McDonald, Bassett’s days were numbered.

So it was on December 12 1995 that Bassett left Bramall Lane although there was a cash dispute with Charles Green, later the chief executive, who offered to settle matters in the car park, only to back down when the former United boss called his bluff.

Howard Kendall was next into the United hotseat but his 18-month spell heralded a fresh merry-go-round which was only halted by the arrival of Warnock in December 1999.

Hardly a shrinking violet, Warnock could be a divisive figure but he came to Bramall Lane with a string of promotions and a passion for the Blades. The club was only outside the relegation zone on goal difference but he guided them to safety and 10th in his first full season.

The 2002-03 season was memorable. Warnock had assembled a side that had balance and pace, youth and experience and they charged to the semi-finals of both the FA and League Cup only to be beaten by Arsenal and Liverpool respectively.

The Blades finished third in the league and an exhilarating play-off semi win over Nottingham Forest earned a play-off final against Wolves only for the team to fall well short in Cardiff.

Dave Bassett being hailed by fans - 7th May 1990

Dave Bassett being hailed by fans - 7th May 1990

The subsequent two seasons resulted in two eighth-place finishes and some disgruntlement among the fans but chairman Kevin McCabe stood by his man, believed in him and let him be manager.

It worked. United finished second behind Reading to go up to the Premier League in 2005/06 and Warnock almost kept them there, only for the team to suffer another final-day relegation against Wigan as well as the spectre of the Carlos Tevez/West Ham affair.

Warnock resigned following relegation after which his relationship with McCabe - which had survived controversies and FA disciplinaries - suffered after his seven year five-month spell.

Porterfield arrived at Bramall Lane in June 1981, weeks after guiding Rotherham to the Third Division title, the Millers having traded places with the Blades who were in the Fourth Division for the first time.

The Scot was brought on board by Brealey and he splashed the cash, bringing striker Keith Edwards back to Bramall Lane along with winger Colin Morris and goalkeeper Keith Waugh.

United lost just four times all season as they clinched the Fourth Division title to be followed by mid-table security.

The 1983/84 season ended on a stomach-churning note for Blades fans as United edged out Hull to go up on goals scored, namely those scored by Edwards.

The Blades finished two places off relegation but the 1985/86 season was healthier only for Porterfield to be sacked in March 1986 with the team in seventh after four years and nine months.

Harris was appointed United boss for the second time in the summer of 1969 and in 1970-71 he guided them back into the top flight.

They scorched through their first 10 matches, winning eight of their first 10 games against the likes of Arsenal, Leeds and Chelsea before being stopped in their tracks by a George Best-inspired Manchester United.

They eventually finished ninth and 14th in the following season with Harris resigning in December 1973 after four years four months to become senior executive at the club where he remained until 1977 when he took up a post as chief scout at Hillsborough.

Haslam took over in January 1978 with the club mid-table in Division Two only for them to go down to the Third Division for the first time in their history the following season. By January 1981, Martin Peters had taken over with the club eventually sliding down to the bottom tier.

Haslam oversaw one of the more memorable and improbable episodes in Blades history when he noticed a young Diego Maradona in action on a scouting trip to Argentina in 1978.

He was impressed but a deal fell through when United did not come up with cash. Instead, Haslam signed another Argentinian by the name of Alex Sabella for a club record fee.

Chelsea v Sheffield United - 7th May 1994'A grim faced Dave Bassett after the match.

Chelsea v Sheffield United - 7th May 1994'A grim faced Dave Bassett after the match.

Neil Warnock 'c1984

Neil Warnock 'c1984

Neil Warnock (Barnsley FC) had a little help from his friends when he opened a greengrocers shop at Nether Edge Road, Sheffield - 28th January 1977

Neil Warnock (Barnsley FC) had a little help from his friends when he opened a greengrocers shop at Nether Edge Road, Sheffield - 28th January 1977