It’s not exactly unheard of for a manager to play one club off against the interest of another in the cause of a new contract. But that genuinely wasn’t the motivation for the stand that delivered one for Chris Wilder’s four-strong management team at Sheffield United.
If it had been, the manager and his trusty trio could have accepted new terms midway through last season. And, without wishing to rain on anyone’s parade here, since when has the length of a contract really been of any significance in football? The actual bottom line is the severance terms, commonly 12 months either way.
Yes, the built-in pay rise at Bramall Lane is meaningful (and deserved), but everything else about the reconciliation – which was signposted in this column last week - is window dressing.
Not that the window wasn’t in need of decoration. And a fresh pane of glass after Wilder hurled a proverbial brick through it with his brutally candid, and utterly justified, remarks about the club’s state of drift and where that left him.
Credit here to the owners. Instead of Wilder’s comments proving even more divisive amid their battle for control of the club, the home truths brought them together. Would that meeting have taken place otherwise? No matter now, they acted.
The logical solution long preached here was arrived at; an agreement to provide Wilder with the maximum possible support into next season while parking off the ownership dispute. And that’s what it was all about.
Proof of a sense of direction came a long way in front of anything else. Only then could the new deals – embracing Alan Knill, Matt Prestridge and Paul Mitchell – follow.
The one season extension, theoretically covering the next three seasons, is a detail on paper. But it IS valid as a gesture of commitment by all the parties. In football, of course, you can never really look that far ahead. A single bad season can undo even a manager as successful over a long period as this one.
Events off the field, like ownership and investment, can impact for good or bad. Or clubs higher up the scale can come calling.
All imponderables. All that can be controlled is the present and the Blades are now a club under control where ambitions on the field are concerned.
That’s all Wilder wanted. It helped, of course, to have other clubs logically linked and to have a firm suitor in Sunderland, who would have been attractive had the stalemate not been broken. But it was only by being excellent at his job that put Wilder in a position of strength that he has used for the benefit of all involved.
While the budget has been improved, it should not be assumed that the rise is substantial or will be even top half for the Championship. But that, like the contract, wasn’t the chief demand, either. It was simply to do with moving in the right direction with a chance of more progress. Happily, that has been achieved. And thank heavens for that.