If Chris Wilder has got Sheffield United’s owners talking again - even if it’s only to say “hello” - then the virtual ultimatum he delivered last weekend was worth making for that alone.
Can they call a truce on their cold war and jointly provide essential interim support for the Blades boss pending the outcome of a potentially lengthy legal battle for control of the club? That is the key question – arguably the only solution to keeping an exceptional manager and preventing two years of progress swirling down the plughole.
I find it inconceivable in these circumstances that some statement – ideally a joint one – will not be made. That’s my optimistic prediction. And very soon, quite possibly around the time that this appears. If so, hopefully some or all of the points raised here will be answered.
On Tuesday morning, this column emailed eight questions separately to intermediaries of Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosa’ad Abdulaziz Al Saud. On Wednesday afternoon, as this went to press, it had yet to receive a response from either party, each notified of that deadline.
That it was impossible to set out to achieve a joint response, and that each had to be approached separately, is the giveaway to a deeply divided hierarchy – lacking in what Wilder called “direction and harmony”, without which he indicated he “could not do” his job.
These were the questions, worded identically to both co-owners:
1/ What is the current status of talks regarding the ownership of the club?
2/ Is there a timescale on concluding the negotiations?
3/ Do you have a response to what Chris Wilder said on Saturday?
4/ Is it possible to arrange interim support for the manager from each of the club owners pending a resolution?
5/ Are you concerned about losing the manager?
6/ Are the co-owners in personal dialogue?
7/ Do you have confidence that Sheffield United will be competitive in the Championship again next season?
8/ Will sufficient resources be in place to achieve this?
Both parties were told that the other was being posed the same questions. It was far from a comprehensive list, merely a starting point.
Notice that the money question was last. Wilder’s needs are not fundamentally about that. He needs assurances about people working together, committing as much as is possible. If it is was about spending power, he would not have taken on a low budget mission in the first place, over-achieving in each of his two seasons.
Plenty of managers have thought what Chris Wilder said last Saturday. Very few have voiced it. Most bite their tongue.
That’s why a small minority among United’s support, fiercely loyal to Wilder, will have questioned not so much what the manager spelled out, undeniably correctly, but the fact he put it out there. Was it merely tactical? Was it calculated? Should he have stewed on in silence? Answer: a resounding NO in each case.
Boldness and honesty make this manager what he is, simply inspirational and potentially the best in the club’s modern history. Spin? He simply doesn’t do it. As in the performance of his team, he tells it as it is.
Motivated by personal interest in this case? Or motivated by United’s? Hang on – aren’t they one and the same thing? The bottom line is Wilder doesn’t want to leave HIS club. For him to suggest he might actually quit will have been as painful as it was brutally candid. What do we prefer? For the ownership issue, an absolutely critical one, to be fudged? For the Blades to drift into a summer of near inevitable stagnation?
Suppose Wilder had not spoken out. Would minds have been focused by that? No, what he said was best for all parties – including the joint club owners. It is surely in neither of their interests to lose him and see the resurgence of the past two seasons go to waste.
I think everyone connected to Sheffield United should thank Wilder for yet again taking the proverbial bull by the horns.