Every word emotional Chris Wilder said on 'incredible contribution' John Fleck made at Sheffield United

John Fleck (C) celebrates after scoring the equalising goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 18, 2020John Fleck (C) celebrates after scoring the equalising goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 18, 2020
John Fleck (C) celebrates after scoring the equalising goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Sheffield United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 18, 2020 | AFP via Getty Images
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has paid tribute to a Blades hero, John Fleck who left the club on deadline day

Sheffield United fans have been paying tribute all day on social media to John Fleck after the midfielder left Bramall Lane to join Blackburn Rovers on Thursday night.

Fleck became a huge fans' favourite at United having joined on a free transfer from Coventry and helped lead the Blades from League One into the Premier League, with the Scot taking each step up in his stride.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Here's everything Chris Wilder said about Sheffield United fans' 'Scottish hero':

"I think it's important we recognise the contribution John has made over the seven or eight years. As what happens at a football club, players come and players go but there's always some that make an incredible mark on their time and John is certainly one of those players.

An opportunity he couldn't turn down

I had a conversation with John yesterday afternoon and said a club had come in for him and obviously his contract was up, so maybe we were looking more longer term in terms of the future of the football club and players like Andre Brooks coming through and I wanted to make sure it was right for John as well. The decision and the opportunity for John to carry on playing to a very high standard was one that he couldn't afford to turn down and yes, I went to bed and woke up about half 12, one o'clock and saw that it had gone through and it was a little bit mixed emotions really because of the incredible contribution he's made.

A manager's dream

From a manager's point of view and people go on about a manager's dream, he was a fabulous player to work with, understated, gave his opinion, trained absolutely full tilt every day, day in day out, gave everything out on the pitch, selfless in his play, extremely talented. Everyone knows the backstory to how we got him and coming on a free and the song the supporters made up regarding him as well. Just his whole contribution right the way through and it gives you an incredible amount of pride when you see the likes of players like John, and his characteristics, his personality, his drive come through, playing in League One and being on that initial journey right the way through to regaining a Premier League status for the football club with a promotion last year. He's got a hell of a lot to look back on with an enormous amount of pride in how he's gone about his business, as well as his fantastic performances.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Two stand-out moments

Two huge moments in our history, as I said we have all been brought up as United fans and everyone can remember their own particular favourite moment and I'm sure from a lot of supporters point of view those two moments will definitely go down in that period that they've watched Sheffield United. His last minute goal at Northampton to get us out of Division One after six years and obviously his incredible finish at Hillsborough to get us up and running in what was a memorable day. I think there was a lot more to that, returning to the Scotland squad as well, his performances through every level, his dominant performances in the Premier League and there's some stories off the pitch as well that we will no doubt keep to ourselves and the staff and the players at the time. A huge player and a huge character and one that will no doubt go down, from a Sheffield United fans point of view, as one of their favourite players from that period.

Sheffield United's John Fleck celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 24, 2017Sheffield United's John Fleck celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 24, 2017
Sheffield United's John Fleck celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at Hillsborough, Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday September 24, 2017 | PA

When Wilder knew he had a player

He just took to every level and that's what you look for. You set your team up tactically and try and bridge that gap that we have always tried to bridge but you look for the players that no matter the level, whatever challenge is in front of them they will go and overcome and get over that hurdle and John did. Obviously he started off as a boy wonder at Rangers under a huge amount of pressure and he found himself at Coventry. We talked today about our first pre-season, we were out in La Manga in the roasting sun one pre-season afternoon and looking at this ginger-haired lad with an incredible face and I'm thinking 'I hope this signing comes good' and he picked the ball up and pinged the ball right across the pitch and I thought we have a player on our hands here. Every level he's gone through from Championship into the Premier League, back out of the Premier League and then obviously his final bits this year.

It's been a difficult last part of John's career at Sheffield United and I hope everybody doesn't remember the last sort of part of his career because there's been an awful lot to what John has given this football club and as I said, he's a special player that will go down a one of my favourite all time players who I have worked with.

'One of my favourites'

You talk about the players that you have enjoyed working with, the likes of O'Connell and Basham and Billy Sharp and McGoldrick and hopefully I don't miss anybody out but I am sure there's a lot more but Fleck is right amongst that lot. He's great company on a night out, he played hard off the pitch, played hard on the pitch, trained ferociously, led by example, wasn't a vocal member of the squad but you ask all his teammates and opponents in that period from 2016 all the way through to 2022/23, he was an incredible team mate as well as a really tough opponent for the players he was up against. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I wish him all the best, there's no doubt I will keep in contact with him and when the time comes when he does return to Bramall Lane in whatever capacity, as a player or come back for a day as a supporter of the football club, everybody will make their feelings known about how they feel about John and his contribution."

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.