Chris Wilder has served a 14 year apprenticeship for the Sheffield United job. But it’s not the statistic that stands out.
Nor is it his 707 games as a boss, his two promotions or his very healthy 42.7% win ratio. What screams from the rafters is that in all that time Wilder has never once ... been sacked.
Not once, not ever. One season (and four trophies) at Alfreton, six embattled years at Halifax, similar at Oxford including a return to the Football League, two years at Northampton where he departed on a hero on his own terms... all leading to the club that has made him its ninth manager in nine years.
The warning to Wilder over the threat to his clean record doesn’t need stating. Being a popular former Blades player carries him only so far. Same with his enviable CV. Saying the right things and connecting with supporters equally so. Ditto playing an aggressive brand of football.
Thankfully we were spared any talk of projects and stability on this occasion – because only winning promotion to the Championship in his very first season will 100% guarantee a second.
Has anyone in Bramall Lane history fallen further or faster than Nigel Adkins? Lauded almost unanimously as the ideal choice last summer, unceremoniously booted out eleven months later and yet still boasting a career record far better than Sheffield United’s.
That said, despite advocating some continuity for once, I can’t find as much fault with this decision as others. Losing further support with criticism of fans, whether just an observation about a build up of frustration or not, was the final straw. I believe Kevin McCabe was steadfast behind Adkins right up until last Monday morning when, in fairness to the co-chairman (still seeming to call most of the shots), the opposition factions became overwhelming. Wilder had a done deal waiting for him at Charlton. A phone call changed that.
As a Sheffield resident in touch with his boyhood favourites, Wilder will have been as aware as anyone of boardroom politics. But when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself he couldn’t say no, however hazardous.
United (though we said this last year) could not have chosen better. It’s Wilder’s first taste of big club management but I think he’s a big enough character, and experienced enough, to handle it. He’ll demand that his teams “have a go”, especially at home, where the football has been anonymous.
Going for him, too, is an ability to work on limited resources, albeit a double-edged sword. Allowing that United’s budget will far exceed others he’s worked with, the Blades simply have to cut their cloth for a sixth year in League One.
Chris’s many friends in the area could only plead on his behalf for no committee-type clutter when it comes to executing his plans. United have to examine why they appear not to have created the conditions for a single manager to succeed (in their eyes) since Neil Warnock.
But it’s certain one manager will break that sequence - eventually. I see no reason why that man cannot be Chris Wilder.