Alan Biggs: The reality of Sheffield United's current status

It’s a choice. You can fight on with a pre-conditioned questioning of the future of your manager - or you can kill that question stone dead.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 12:00 pm

You can isolate the finest Sheffield United manager of the modern era, and one of the greatest in the club’s history, or you can ring-fence your biggest asset.

You can live with the destabilising uncertainty that fighting relegation causes or you can create some surety for the long-term future of the club.

You can focus entirely on the immediate financial gains, or losses, of staying in the Premier League, or you can self-evaluate and make a projection.

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Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder's position has come under scrutiny but mostly by those not of a Blades persuasion. TIM KEETON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

All the pointers, including a rallying “stick together” tweet from chairman Musaad Bin Khalid Al Saud last Saturday night, suggest the former. Well said and rightly so.

It’s the best choice facing Sheffield United. The club can ask itself if it should realistically have been in the Premier League within three years of appointing someone to take charge of a mid-table League One outfit.

Should it have finished an incredible ninth in the top flight last season from the bottom of the pay scale?

Can it be surprised this season to foot the table on an average wage of around £35,000 a week when proven Premier League players cost twice that?

None of this is to blame the Blades board or doubt their intentions where Chris Wilder is concerned.

But I think one popular former player has spoken for the vast majority of fans in calling for a declaration that Wilder will remain manager regardless of this season’s outcome.

Jan Aage Fjortoft told me: “I think there should be a clear message to players as well ... ‘we will stick with Chris Wilder ... whatever happens, he will stay.’”

Most importantly, perhaps, a message to the those in the national media who don’t realise the depth of support for this manager and assume that, in his position, he must be “under pressure.”

Fjortoft added: “That’s a great signal and maybe the extra thing you need. You can only stay in the Premier League by sticking together.”

Important, too, to amplify this sentiment in the absence of crowds who would undoubtedly be striking exactly that supportive note in the stadium, drowning out the odd dissenting voice on social media.

For me, Burnley and Norwich are showing the way to go. Burnley stuck with promotion-winner Sean Dyche and he brought them back. Norwich are topping the Championship after doing similar with Daniel Farke.

As Fjortoft summed up: “There wouldn’t be a modern Sheffield United without Chris, the best manager the club can dream of.”

It’s not about accepting relegation. It’s actually about accepting who you are.

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