And so back to the recurring debate that’s surrounded Sheffield United for nearly a decade: how long do they keep the manager? But with a refreshing change of emphasis.
Not how long SHOULD they keep him but how long CAN they keep him? There are two sides to every coin. I’m not suggesting for a moment that there is any real risk of losing Chris Wilder in this rousing recovery season. Just that his record will not have gone unnoticed in a game where successful individuals are pursued with great vigour.
It’s been pointed out by colleagues on Twitter that in the last calendar year, which has included a promotion with Northampton, Wilder has harvested 102 points over 46 games, the equivalent of a full season.
Won 30, drawn 12, lost 4. In other words, a phenomenal return. And in football speak, a manager who stands to attract a lot of admiring glances. Quite right, too. It means the Bramall Lane boot – which has dispatched so many – is very much on the other foot right now. And it’s where the owners would much prefer to wear it.
A small note of caution here in that things can change very quickly in football and the season is not yet at halfway. But even if United were to fall short of promotion, which I doubt, there should be no question that Wilder is their manager next season.
And that point is underpinned by the overwhelming feeling that there is absolutely no question – beyond something totally unforeseen - of Wilder being lured elsewhere. It is rare indeed for a third tier club to be in such a position. The valid point has been made that being a fan of the club you manage only goes so far. But right here and now is where it is actually of genuine value.
Both as a fan and a boss, the man is on a mission. You sense he wouldn’t even consider leaving, of his own volition, until the club is where he wants his career to be. And for a manager in “mid career”, as he puts it, that has to be the Premier League.
That said, it’s in doing the basics and not getting too far ahead of themselves that Wilder, assistant Alan Knill and a squad that’s become tightly bonded in remarkably quick time have turned the club around.
I’m reminded very much of the start made in the job by Danny Wilson, a luckless predecessor, in the way Wilder has made a priority of embracing everyone at Bramall Lane in changing the whole mood of the place.
What makes it all healthier still is a complete absence of prejudice. Marginalised players (Coutts, Freeman, Scougall) had a chance to force their way back and George Long can be added to that number after his reappearance on the bench for the 4-1 win at Chesterfield.
Rumours of a fall-out accompanied the keeper’s apparently disaffected response to his early season dropping. But with Wilder there is always a way back if players show the right attitude and response.
Momentum is hard to stop once a club of United’s size gets on a roll. But only if everyone realises what got the club to that point and, with Wilder, no-one will be allowed to forget.