Alan Biggs' Sheffield United column: Chris Wilder's determination for constant improvement is reaping its rewards

Will Chris Wilder ever be satisfied? Silly question. Next.

Wednesday, 5th February 2020, 12:21 pm
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder celebrates after the final whistle during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday February 1, 2020. See PA story SOCCER Palace. Photo credit should read: Tess Derry/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

If anyone in or around Sheffield United suspected the boss would be happy with mere “consolidation” in the Premier League, they’ve had to comply with one of his favourite phrases. Give their heads a wobble.

This head is wobbling - slightly. At the speed of acclimatisation to the top flight; not the intent to go higher.

I can’t help recalling an on-air (and then off-air) exchange with Blades' head of recruitment Paul Mitchell dating back four years and which goes to the heart of this.

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He’d just told my Sheffield Live show that Wilder would become one of THE top managers in the game - as THE best he’d ever encountered or studied.

This was before promotion from League One; a genuine endorsement but, considering understandable personal loyalties, a hard sell at that stage.

What you find in this business is that it’s the off-the-record exchanges that count.

Nursing a post-show pint in a bar, Mitchell made the same claim, even more forcefully. No lip service or political correctness whatsoever.

It’s from this sort of conversation that you start to believe. While there was every cause to expect Wilder to succeed at Bramall Lane, the extent of his success is simply startling, sixth in the Premier League and targeting higher.

Not content to hang around even in mid-table. Not taking no for an answer on a January budget he privately believed to be unworkable for real progress. Not afraid to keep asking for a rethink.

There is history. Challenging the then two owners to put their differences aside and pool funds after a promising first season in the Championship. Result - promotion.

Winning the case for a £35m investment in preparation for this season. Result - an unthinkable challenge for Europe.

Coaxing a very late January U-turn that more than tripled his window budget and delivered the £22m club record arrival of Sander Berge among three top quality signings. Result - Europe is on!

All because Wilder has never wanted to leave Sheffield United to realise his ambitions. And believe me, that was a very real danger of that approaching the turn of the year.

No chance now with a new deal and more realistic funding - fairly provided from revenue streams he has personally created.

Of course, it’s a team effort off the field as well - which reminds me that the Alan Knill of Dave Bassett’s day, Geoff Taylor, is a special guest (alongside Bassett) at Sunday’s visit of Bournemouth.

It’s a special day, too - Geoff’s 87th birthday. And he’s still working! Taylor, who helped United climb two divisions under Bassett for a four-year stay in the top flight, still scouts for Stoke City and does opposition match reports for Wimbledon. Happy birthday, Geoff, be great to see you back at the Lane. The good old days are more than back, too.