Blades: Is Danny Wilson the right manager for Sheffield United?

New Blades boss: Danny Wilson.
New Blades boss: Danny Wilson.
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EVEN Danny Wilson would admit that, at first glance, he seems an unlikely choice as Sheffield United manager, writes James Shield.

With spells at Barnsley and most potently Hillsborough on his coaching CV, the former Northern Ireland international’s appointment will sit uncomfortably with some sections of Bramall Lane’s support.

But strip away those previous associations and it becomes apparent why plc chairman Kevin McCabe, who during his time at the helm has made no secret of his preference for employing dyed-in-the-wool Blades, was persuaded by Wilson’s charms when they first met to discuss the vacant position.

Having steered Hartlepool to promotion, three seasons before delivering play-off football to Swindon Town, the 51-year-old boasts a proven ability of producing results on meagre resources - and, as fans at Oakwell remember fondly following the 1997-98 Premiership campaign, in the style McCabe and his fellow directors crave.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be smooth seas sailing in here,” Wilson said. “But, as those who know me will say, I’m a very determined character.

“Of course you’d rather have people on side. But that only makes me even more determined and, surely, everyone deserves a chance?

“Hopefully we’ll be able to bring results in the style of football that I’m accustomed to.”

Of course, whether or not United resemble Brazil under his stewardship remains to be seen. Wilson inherits a team still coming to terms with its relegation from the Championship and a group of senior players likely to be tempted by lucrative offers from elsewhere.

Crucially, though, he is understood to have pledged to blend members of John Pemberton’s FA Youth Cup Final squad into a starting 11 which will bear little resemblance to the one his predecessor Micky Adams employed during the closing stages of last season. It is this commitment which saw him emerge from a list of over 50 applicants before getting the nod over Mark Robins and Keith Hill.

Indeed Pemberton, whose conduct at Shirecliffe has also impressed McCabe, shadowed Wilson during his coronation yesterday.

“There’s a big re-structuring job to be done,” Wilson acknowledged. “And I expect there will be plenty of knocks on the door for some of our better, higher-paid players.

“We are going into a tough league, make no mistake about that.

“Yes, I want to play football but there are also going to be times when it’s physically uncompromising.

“There’s a lot of work to be done but, if you are in at the start of that process, then I think it gives you a better chance of making things work.”

Nevertheless it would be foolish to pretend that, in one of English football’s most tribal outposts, Wilson’s arrival does not also present something of a challenge for United’s PR machine.

“The thing that would give me more satisfaction that anything – other than bringing success on the field here – will be if I can turn those doubters around,” he said. “That’s the aim.”


Date of Birth: January 1, 1960.

Place of Birth: Wigan.

Playing career: Wigan, Bury, Chesterfield, Nottingham Forest, Scunthorpe (loan), Brighton, Luton, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley.

Managerial career: Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City, MK Dons, Hartlepool, Swindon.

International Honours: Northern Ireland.

Domestic honours: League Cup (Luton, Wednesday).

Managerial honours: Promotion (Barnsley, Hartlepool), play-offs (Bristol City, Swindon) Premier League Manager of the Month (Barnsley).