Chris Holt: One of your own ... Almost irreplaceable Chris Wilder was and is Sheffield United
The song that bellowed around Bramall Lane and at grounds from Manchester to Millwall, says it all.
“It was our sixth year in Division One, then Chris Wilder came home, he’ll take us to the very top, he’s one of our own...”
That’s what he did and that’s what he is.
For Blades fans Chris Wilder’s appointment as manager almost five years ago – a homecoming after spending his days as a boy on the terraces, then living the dream as a player – signalled a reunification at S2.
Four days previous I watched a toxic atmosphere envelop Bramall Lane after defeat on the final day of their League One season against Scunthorpe. The traditional final day ‘lap of honour’ by the players took place in front of almost empty stands, with most of those who did stay around only doing so to vent their anger following a truly awful season.
Around 24 hours later, then manager, Nigel Adkins was sacked. Soon after, Wilder arrived and for United fans it felt as though a cloud had lifted from Shoreham Street. It was like a priest performing an exorcism.
To those supporters, Wilder was one of them; he got them, he got the club and he got Sheffield and the importance of its football clubs.
And after a slightly stumbling start it became very clear that he had formed a team in his own image and that of the fans’ – hard-working, straight-talking and passionate.
He won promotion, had a steady season in the Championship then almost unbelievably took them to the very top where they were mixing with the great and the good of some of European football’s elite.
And now, it appears to be all over … the unthinkable has happened; not really because of a disappointing and freakishly unique season that will almost certainly see United back in the Championship next season, but because of a huge difference of opinion behind the scenes surrounding the future path the club are to take.
It’s unthinkable because we don’t have to delve too far into the memory bank to recall the scenes that Wilder sparked by leading the team to those promotions; thousands pouring onto the streets and filling the city centre to herald their heroes.
Sheffield United’s owners, headed up by Prince Abdullah, have placed a huge amount of pressure on themselves with Wilder’s departure. They shouldn’t have needed reminding of the manager’s popularity in the city, but if they did it came at them like a tsunami when the news broke.
Now they have to find a replacement for the almost irreplaceable. Then set about patching up the deep wounds that this turn of events have caused.
They won’t have had, nor will they ever confront a bigger challenge. For Chris Wilder was and is one of their own.