Chris Wilder receives assurances that star names want to stay with Sheffield United, as fears about his own future grow
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has suggested most of the club’s leading players have provided assurances they are happy to remain at Bramall Lane next term after again indicating his own future will be in doubt if there is a flurry of departures when relegation is confirmed.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against Aston Villa, which could see United slide deeper into trouble at the bottom of the Premier League table, Wilder replied “I don’t know” when asked if he would still be in charge next season amid signs of a difference of opinion about strategy with owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’d bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Although Wilder indicated his preference is to stay and oversee the rebuilding process following a troubled campaign in South Yorkshire - Prince Abdullah, a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, has also previously stated he wants to retain the 53-year-old’s services - the former Oxford and Northampton Town chief’s repeated warnings about “sticking to the plan” suggests they do not share the same vision about how best to proceed.
With United 15 points adrift of safety with only 12 matches left to play, Wilder told The Star: “The players will take a (pay) cut going into the Championship and rightly so. We will all take a cut, and rightly so. It will be sustainable.
“We bought players who know about the Championship. Who, will all due respect, know all about going to some pretty difficult places on a wet and cold Tuesday night.”
“The plan is to keep improving, to leave a legacy, to keep the players we’ve got and to add a couple,” he continued. “I’m confident we can keep the group together, 100 percent. I know the group, the players, better than anybody.”
Despite publicly refusing to admit defeat in the battle for survival, United’s coaching staff and squad members privately accept they are destined for a return to the EFL two years after winning the second of their two promotions under Wilder.
Admitting that United are “down to the bare bones” for the visit of a Villa team in ninth, Wilder has made little attempt to disguise his frustration at the board’s refusal to sanction any new arrivals during the winter transfer window - with Prince Abdullah later expressing concerns about the success of some recent signings.
John Egan, Jack O’Connell, Sander Berge and Chris Basham were among the absentees when United were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool on Sunday night.
Responding to some of the criticism his team received following that result, Wilder, who helped United challenge for a place in Europe last term, said: “We were playing Liverpool - Mane, Salah, Firmio, Curtis Jones - terrific young player. Andy Robertson, I think he’s brilliant by the way.
“The game was no different to last year, apart from the fact 30,000 of our fans were in there. The game was absolutely no different. We had more points on the board last year. The perception, therefore, is different. Can you imagine the amount of analysis we’ve done? Seriously, we’ve gone through everything, and it’s no different.”
“People were walking out of the ground last year and thinking ‘ We’ve got beaten by Liverpool 1-0 but the lads did brilliant.’ Now they’re thinking ‘They’re a shambles’ and we’re not,” he added.