Alan Biggs at Large: Why I am convinced Sheffield United's Chris Wilder would do a superb job in the Premier League
Never before been lazy enough to let another journalist write this column '“ but you can't do better than Henry Winter.
Pretty obvious who Henry’s referring to in The Times right here: A manager whose ‘sweat on the shirt’ promise on his arrival also related to his demands on players.” Who “insists they train as they play, with a match-day intensity, and no hats or gloves.”
A manager who “is a master communicator, and a great one for feedback.” Who “as a player, maximised his own abilities” and who “likes hungry players.”
A manager who “does due diligence on recruits.” Who “checks out backgrounds and quirks, gathering information from his many contacts within the game.” Who is “very much an adherent to the All Blacks ‘no d******d’ policy.”
And last but not least: a manager who “works on such a tight budget that he cannot afford mistakes. . . his judgment has to be right.”
The manager in question is, of course... Sean Dyche of Burnley. But anyone who guessed the manager of Sheffield United can be instantly forgiven. It can’t be a bad thing to find so many parallels between the boss of the team placed near-miraculously seventh in the Premier League and one unexpectedly competing for the play-offs in the Championship.
Both are over-achieving on their resources. Both have similar values, mixing a lot of old school with the best of the new. And both have got where they are on tough, grounded apprenticeships, without gimmicks or eccentricities and minus the sexy name advantage enjoyed by those who had high-flying playing careers.
In fact, Chris Wilder has had to toil even harder at it, all the way up from non-league and some 17 unbroken years in the job whereas Dyche, four years his junior at 46, worked his way up on the coaching staff of former club Watford, who he subsequently managed before being ridiculously sacked, and then joined Burnley in 2012, establishing them in the top flight on the back of a second promotion.
While much admiration is due in each case, perversely such a route to success can be regarded as a weakness rather than strength when the top jobs come around. “Top jobs” is all relative.
In Dyche’s position, it means almost exactly that – from an Everton or a Newcastle upwards. For Wilder, maybe a Crystal Palace, Swansea, Southampton or Stoke. Or a Burnley if Dyche was lured to, say, Everton, in place of Sam Allardyce. Or an ambitious Championship outfit if his own falls short of that. Hopefully not.
But the similarity for both is the answering of one question in sceptical minds. Winter writes: “Privately, Dyche wonders why he is not linked with top jobs. That’s not arrogance, that’s simply a reflection of his belief in himself and his backroom team to develop players. Could he deal with big egos? Only opportunity and time would tell, but Dyche would definitely back himself to.”
I’m convinced, so would Wilder. The challenge is more for his club to eliminate that question and help him match what Dyche has done at Burnley. Of that, he appears more than capable given the chance.