Sheffield United: Chris Wilder explains why an improved transfer budget must not signal a change of strategy
Their sense of schadenfreude is almost palpable as, after many gambled big and lost even bigger, they watch some of the Championship's biggest spenders prepare for fire sales.
But Sheffield United, whose recruitment has been prudent under Chris Wilder’s stewardship, will resist the temptation to make dramatic strategical changes despite improving his transfer budget. Mostly through necessity although, perhaps even more significantly, because the manager is convinced it would be a grave mistake.
“We’ve got a way of doing things and, over the course of time, it’s served us well,” Wilder said. “That’s not to say we aren’t ambitious because we are.
“We want to keep pushing the boundaries and improve everything we do. But I’ve always thought it important to do it in a sensible and sustainable manner. That, to my mind, gives you the best chance of success over a longer period of time.”
Wilder’s work this summer will focus on tweaking, not overhauling or dismantling, a squad which punched well above its financial weight last term. A 10th placed finish, despite representing something of a disappointment given they had entered the penultimate match chasing a top six berth, was a tribute to both the professionalism of his players and acumen of his staff.
But while United plot a series of calculated changes, the likes of Derby County and Aston Villa are almost certain to experience wholesale churn as they attempt to comply with the English Football League’s Profit and Sustainability rules.
Inevitably, as agents seek to place their clients with other clubs, that could open new and unexpected avenues for Wilder to explore. However, aware his resources are still likely to be dwarfed by more than half of the division, the 50-year-old will tread carefully before following any potentially dangerous paths.
“I don’t want us to be a boom and bust club,” Wilder continued. “I don’t want to do anything that would put us at risk.
“Lots of people will still be spending big money. So we’ve got to find a way of getting around that. We’ve improved things. But we’ve also got to look at bridging that gap.”
In an effort to overcome this hurdle, the majority of Wilder’s business could be top-flight loans. Borrowing Premier League talent, particularly of the up-and-coming variety, has proven a successful policy for many of United’s rivals in recent years.
Chelsea, where Wilder and his chief scout Paul Mitchell are known to enjoy excellent relations, could be among their first ports of call although Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, now ensconced at Pride Park, are also expected to plunder their former employer’s youth system.
“We also focus on improving our players,” Wilder said. “Those here with us because they’re just as important. You should never forget that.”