Alan Biggs: Time for Sheffield United's board to catch up with Chris Wilder, or risk lagging behind for years to come
Internal politics apart '“ and however significant or damaging it proves '“ there is increasing clarity in the suspicion that Chris Wilder has beaten Sheffield United's board to the punch.
The hierarchy will presumably, and perhaps quite reasonably, have expected a season confined to consolidation in the Championship. Little realising, perhaps, that their inspired choice of manager was restlessly and relentlessly (that word again) deadly serious about pursuing a whole lot more.
So it’s catch up or lag behind time for those in the boardroom – and at the most inconvenient time as another of United’s internal dramas plays out, possibly for months or even longer.
The key protagonists might be content to wait it all out but I doubt Wilder will wait for them where his football ambitions are concerned. Whether that is at Bramall Lane or elsewhere.
Now is not the time when you’d expect that subject to be broached, publicly at least. You suspect the Blades boss would be too single-minded and professional to let anything get in the way of an against-the-odds push for the Premier League.
But down the line – and only a little way – his plea for clarification on the direction of the club is a matter of urgency. Don’t expect him to sit out a long saga on the altar of loyalty to his beloved Blades.
Not that he wouldn’t remain grateful, to Kevin McCabe in particular, for the opportunity. Or that there isn’t reciprocal support.
Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise this column if there are moves afoot to upgrade the extended and improved contract the manager signed only last summer. It would surprise me more if there weren’t. However, I’d also expect a guarded response from the club’s best manager since Dave Bassett and Neil Warnock.
Why would he commit with the ownership – contested between joint club chiefs McCabe and Prince Abdullah – in such a state of limbo? As reasoned here last week, Wilder’s outburst over a recent rare sub-standard performance at Hull surely had more to do with general frustration.
He’ll have known, as far back as the Autumn, that he could spend little more than £2m in the January window. Who might he have pursued with greater backing? I’d hazard a guess at a couple. Maybe Brentford’s outstanding midfielder or full back Ryan Woods and also perhaps Adam Forshaw, who was bought by Leeds from Middlesbrough. Among others.
The ones Wilder did sign – James Wilson, Ryan Leonard, Lee Evans and Ricky Holmes – have yet to make a sustained impact. Maybe that makes a point. It also suggests a learning curve for even this manager as I am convinced he will lean towards his best early-season line-up for the run-in. Including the highly influential Mark Duffy and Billy Sharp.
That doesn’t mean the recruits can’t contribute. But it does show the boat has to be pushed out some way to improve on Wilder’s work so far. Matters to focus the minds of those in the boardroom, however this season pans out.