Danny out to restore Blades pride

Putting on the style: 'The fans deserve entertainment and although everything has to be geared towards results, you can get both,' says Danny Wilson.                      Picture: Steve Parkin
Putting on the style: 'The fans deserve entertainment and although everything has to be geared towards results, you can get both,' says Danny Wilson. Picture: Steve Parkin
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HIS appointment was one of the most talked about in Sheffield United history.

Created a firestorm in cyberspace, prompted a flurry of calls to local radio phone-in shows and divided opinion sharper than an Andreas Iniesta pass.

But who is Danny Wilson?

The Star met with the former Northern Ireland international earlier this week in an effort to separate football manager from myth.

Wilson, as those who have worked alongside or beneath him during his 35-year long career, speak of a likeable but intensely private individual besotted with the beautiful game.

Born and bred in a village near Wigan, however, it comes as no surprise to learn that his first taste of professional sport came on the terraces of Central Park watching the town’s rugby league team batter all-comers into submission.

“It’s the done thing in that part of the world,” he said. “It didn’t really have a football club. Not like it does now.

“I used to go and watch Orrell play union too. They were only a couple of miles away and were one of the best sides in the country.

“But league was by far and away the biggest draw so that’s what I went to a lot. I still try and keep in touch with what’s going on in it.”

His father, a Navy man turned brick maker who turned-out for Derry City, ensured, in Wilson’s words, that the “football gene was passed on.”

By a strange twist of fate The Candystripes still wear red and white after adopting them in honour of United legend Billy Gillespie.

“Liverpool were my team back then,” he said. “I couldn’t go every week but whenever someone from my area was making the trip I used to try and cadge along.

“Ian Callaghan was my favourite. Wonderfully gifted he was.

“But the thing I always liked about that Liverpool team was their humility. They were the best in the land but when they did get beaten, which was pretty rare, they always gave credit to the opposition. It wasn’t because they’d been poor. Likewise, if they won 5-0, they shared the credit around the entire group.

“They made sure everyone’s contribution was recognised.”

Those Anfield experiences left, combined with the modesty of the 13 man code, made an indellible impression.

After accepting the challenge of leading United back into the Championship, Wilson’s first task was moving the manager’s office from the South Stand to John Street.

He said: “It’s important, I think, to be a part of things. At too many clubs the contribution of people behind the scenes gets over-looked and taken for granted. I want to work alongside them so surely I should be sitting in the same room? Players too, and this isn’t a criticism of mine, can become a little bit aloof, if that’s the right word, from supporters. At least that’s how they’re seen.

“Again, I don’t want that. If this is going to be a family club - a people’s club - we’ve all got to muck in together.”

Wilson passes ‘the bloke you’d like to have a drink with test.’ But how does he intend on overcoming the even greater challenge of dragging United out of a division they have not occupied since the late Eighties?

The answer, having represented Nottingham Forest, Brighton, Sheffield Wednesday and Luton before becoming a coach, is by combining substance with style.

“I’ve never played for anybody who didn’t like the ball being passed properly on the deck,” Wilson explained. “People like Alan Mullery at Brighton, Brian Clough at (Nottingham) Forest and Ron Atkinson all demanded it and so, although there are many different ways of approaching this business, that’s why I like to play a attractive but effective football. It’s what I was brought up with.”

Of course, it is Wilson’s previous associations with Hillsborough which caused much consternation among a section of United’s support when was named as Micky Adams’ successor last month.

A member of Wednesday’s 1991 League Cup winning side, he also spent a brief but tumultuous spell in charge there 12 seasons ago.

Nevertheless, despite his lukewarm welcome to Bramall Lane, Wilson is committed to putting a smile back on the faces of the hundred or so folk who staged a car park protest throughout a truly bizarre coronation.

He said: “When I go to watch a game I want to be entertained. If I watched terrible football every week then I’d probably quickly fall out of love with it so why do people think fans are any different?

“They want to be entertained as well and that’s what I’m going to try and aim to do. They work hard for their money in the week and that’s the least they deserve.

“Of course, everything has to be weighted towards results but you can get both.

“Football clubs are an important part of the community and we should try and make the people who come and watch us proud and feel a part of what we’re trying to do.”

Barnsley, where Wilson cut his managerial teeth, were certainly overcome with joy when he led them into the Premier League for the first and only time in Oakwell’s history in 1997.

Stints with Bristol City, MK Dons and Hartlepool followed but it was at the County Ground, where Swindon blazed a trail into the 2010 League One play-off final, that Wilson once again showcased the team building talents that persuaded United he possessed the qualities required to transform their ailing fortunes.

And, as plc chairman Kevin McCabe reminded recently, rid the club of its long ball reputation.

“I love what I call an edge of your seat type player,” Wilson said.

“Someone who either through pace or trickery can really bring a ground alive.

“But you’ve got to have effort too. People identify with that and there’s still nothing fans like to see more than folk really giving everything for the cause because that’s what they’d do if they had a chance to pull on the shirt.”

Danny Wilson Factfile

Date of Birth: 1 January 1960

Place of Birth: Wigan

Playing Career: Wigan, Bury, Chesterfield, Nottingham Forest, Scunthorpe (loan), Brighton, Luton, Sheff Wed, Barnsley

Managerial Career: Barnsley, Sheff Wed, 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)