James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Why '˜clever' Chris Wilder must be kept up to date with Prince Abdullah's takeover bid
Chris Wilder isn't a politician.
If he was, and without knowing his position on Brexit, he would probably tell Jean-Claude Juncker to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine before flashing Martin Selmayr a two fingered salute.
Fortunately for the Eurocrats, Wilder earns his living as a footballer manager. One who, despite a reputation for brutal straight-talking, is actually a damn sight more sophisticated than many people give him credit for.
His appreciation of timing, place and the power of widespread public support was in evidence earlier this week when, having pointedly side-stepped questions about goings-on behind the glass panelled doors of Bramall Lane’s boardroom, he called for greater clarity regarding developments surrounding a proposed takeover.
Just to confirm, for those living inside a Brussels bubble, HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosa’ad Abdulaziz Al Saud wants to acquire sole control of Sheffield United by purchasing Kevin McCabe’s 50 per cent shareholding. The attempt, as reported by this newspaper, was launched in response to a process initiated by a company controlled by his fellow co-owner; a classic example of what is known in business circles as a ‘Texas shoot-out’ or a deadlock provision.
Wilder, whose stock among the club’s following could not be higher thanks to his achievements since taking charge, understandably wants the situation resolved as quickly as possible. Not least because, as explained on numerous occasions, he favours long-term planning. In an interview with Yours truly earlier this season, Prince Abdullah spoke about his desire to see United operate more extensively in the overseas transfer market. Following his recent investment in Beerschot Wilrijk, coupled with the appointment of Jan van Winckel as a director of both them and United, only serves to underline the Belgian’s ties with the Saudi royal and the latter’s trust in his expertise. It also, as I referenced several weeks ago, raises questions as to whether this is a stand-alone venture or part of something bigger. Further details, and information on projected spending, are required to let Wilder effectively plan for the future if there is a change at the helm.
Although many aspects of the negotiations will take place in private - the agreement Prince Abdullah signed with McCabe in 2013 requires him to purchase the freeholds and leaseholds of many associated properties - Wilder can be briefed on those that cut across footballing affairs. Especially if structural changes are being proposed. This, if a deal is eventually pushed through, gives him the best possible chance of delivering continued success.