Alan Biggs at Large: Why Chris Wilder can go all the way to the Premier League with his beloved Sheffield United
When someone says 'thank you for your support' they don't just mean for cheering in the good times. They also mean for not jeering in the bad. Anyone can clap a winner.
In the case of Sheffield United, we’re all doing that right now. But it’s the remarkable crowd support during the lean years – consistently around 20,000 – that most validates the explosion of joy around Bramall Lane in the last glorious month.
Ok, they’ve jeered. As a crowd they are traditionally, and maybe understandably, hard to please. But they’ve still turned up. In that, the Blades have got their pricing and customer relations as right as things have sometimes been wrong in other areas.
Let’s see everyone take this forward now because there’s no doubt in my mind that United, as a big city club on the roll, can reach the Premier League and stay there at least as long as the four years achieved by Dave Bassett’s crew in the 1990s.
But let’s also go back to the start.
Being the gentlemen they are, both Chris Wilder and Alan Knill have made a point of thanking journalists including myself “for your support this season.”
I wondered what I’d done to deserve it. As the saying goes, everyone loves a winner. Apart from that nightmare start to the campaign, when beliefs were clung to in stunned silence, there has been no meaningful test of anyone’s loyalty.
The point, though, is that at some time there will be and at that moment let’s all remind ourselves what we are thinking in this one. Ask any Blades fan or director and his faith in Wilder will be undying. Can I just mention Claudio Ranieri and Leicester at this point?
Not because I’m in any way pessimistic about the future - far from it - but because there will be bumps in the road, particularly as it gets steeper.
Let’s not put aside what we think right now; that this manager can go all the way with this club.
The older I get, the more I feel that journalists who back appointments at the outset have a moral responsibility almost as great as the boards who appointed them.
It’s why I continued to rationalise the hiring of Nigel Adkins perhaps longer than I should – before admitting that directors were not the only ones who got it wrong.
So, for those words of Wilder and Knill to mean something, there will be a need to stay strong at some point. It doesn’t mean not criticise. In willingly facing up to any shortcomings in their team, they’d quickly lose respect for apologists.
But what football generally has to learn is that a few bad results, even a bad season, doesn’t turn a good manager into a bad one. Sheffield United have had cause to heed that more than most.
But then so have some of us who have the privilege of reporting the game.