Chris Wilder's vote of confidence at Sheffield United as legend delivers "fact of the matter" verdict

Sheffield United facing huge challenge to retain Premier League status despite two rivals being docked points

Brian Deane, the Sheffield United legend, has implored his old club to give boss Chris Wilder "the opportunity to put right what has happened" this season ahead of a drastic summer rebuild. The Blades, who return to Premier League action this weekend at home to Fulham after an extended international break, are eight points adrift of safety with 10 games remaining.

If the Blades do fail to pull off the greatest of escapes and return to the Championship then a big turnover of players could follow, headed up by Cameron Archer's return to Aston Villa. Bramall Lane officials expect at least a couple of players to push for moves rather than play in the second tier while many of Wilder's squad are in the final months of their contracts, allowing the Blades to clear the decks if they so wish.

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It will be the second big rebuilding job that Wilder has undertaken at Bramall Lane and the success of the first, winning the League One title with 100 points after inheriting a club on the floor after Nigel Adkins' disastrous season, gives him confidence and belief that it can be done again. But the manager's own long-term future is far from secure either, after signing a deal until the summer of 2025 after returning to his boyhood club last December following Paul Heckingbottom's sacking.

Deane is someone who knows Wilder well, having played with him in South Yorkshire under Dave Bassett, and believes the 56-year-old man should get the chance to recover from what is shaping up to be a season to forget. "It’s a really difficult one, Sheffield United," Deane said. "It’s a club that has struggled to get any traction.

"When Chris left, [Slaviša] Jokanović came in and did a good job, but he couldn’t settle. They bought in Heckingbottom, someone very similar to Chris, and now Chris has come back in a very difficult period of time. I don’t see how they can change away from Chris. They have to give him that opportunity to put right what has happened."

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United's struggles this season can be traced back to an underwhelming summer in the transfer market, which saw Heckingbottom rewarded for a promotion which avoided a financial storm at Bramall Lane with an initial £20m budget for permanent transfers which was only swelled when key men Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge were sacrificed on the eve of the new season.

"I don’t put the blame on the team or on the manager," added Deane, speaking to The Star via correct score predictor. "I feel that the squad going into the season just wasn’t strong enough to be able to compete.

"They lost their two stars right before the season even started, meaning their squad wasn’t even as good as the one that got promoted into the Premier League; the toughest league. So it’s very difficult and people can be very critical. But the fact of the matter, when you break it down, is that they were always going to struggle."

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