Biggs at Large: Wilder will get Sheffield United back to basics, says Blades favourite
When the phone rang last season it was often 'Disgruntled Blade' on the line. Tony Kenworthy could have been a caller to your friendly local radio station.
Instead, he vented his frustration on the bloke who writes this column.
The other day I took a very different call from the former Sheffield United defender who, despite being born in Leeds, has remained heart and soul a Blade. Indeed, he’s as staunch a supporter as the man appointed to change the whole mood surrounding the club.
But it’s only on the field that Chris Wilder can make the positive vibe stick and it’s there that Kenworthy expects to see a very different team next season.
A team that goes forward as its first step, and only sideways or backwards when it has to.
This sounds simple to say and it’s hardly revolutionary. “I go back to my playing days and a coach who took a shine to me in Cec Coldwell, God rest him,” says Tony, who made 465 appearances in more than a decade up to 1987.
“One thing Cec said early in my career has always stuck with me. His advice was that when you receive the ball as a defender your first look should always be forwards.”
Kenworthy expects Wilder to adopt the same principle to put his team on the front foot, adding: “Let’s stop all of this going square and back. It can look like you have loads of possession but what good is that when you’re going nowhere? I’m sure that’ll be Chris’s philosophy. He’ll put things simply for the players.
“All these fancy formations don’t win you games. Players do. Look at Leicester and the direct way they won the title. That sort of approach is coming back. Let’s go back to 4-4-2. Let’s turn defenders and get behind them rather than having centre forwards coming deep to receive the ball to feet.”
Needless to say, Tony is a Wilder fan: “Certain people fit a club,” he says.
“This appointment is like a hand going into a glove – and that’s not just because Chris is a former player and fan. He’s earned the right to manage this club.
“It’s a coup that United grabbed him before anyone else did.
“He’ll be honest with the players and demand they put a shift in. He’ll be honest with the supporters, too, no flannel.
“These supporters are very knowledgeable – they’re not stupid. They know what they’re watching.”
I remind Tony about the optimism that abounded under a new manager at this time last year. “I was never a fan,” he shoots back. In fact, he kept his counsel at the time because, like us all, he believes the club has had too many managers in too few years.
His support for Wilder is altogether different and a new boss can seldom have started anywhere with so many colours nailed firmly to his mast.