Has patience slipped out of footballing fashion?

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ROME was not built in a day but, if Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula had ever turned their hands to football, they would have expected to finish the job by lunch.

Time is a precious commodity in football. And, as Sheffield United’s Danny Wilson discovered last weekend, its reserves are running dry.

The former Northern Ireland international, waiting to discuss his team’s draw with Bury live on local radio, could have been forgiven for removing his headphones and storming off in a huff after hearing two callers dismiss United as a busted flush after less than a month of the new campaign.

Fortunately, as most folk realise, phone-in shows and internet message boards can make for lively discussion. But an accurate barometer of opinion they definitely are not.

As a waiter in my favourite restaurant once told me, customers rarely feel compelled to comment if the food is great. But rest assured there’ll be hell to pay if it ain’t.

Now, it would be wrong to create the impression that United’s manager is hanging onto his job by his fingertips or that patience at board level is wearing thin. Nothing could be further from the truth. And quite rightly so.

Yes, Wilson has made some questionable decisions since taking charge at Bramall Lane 16 months ago. Even Fergie has dropped a few clangers in his time.

Asking defender Darryl Westlake, who until Saturday’s fixture had never been deployed as a central midfielder, to deputise for the suspended Michael Doyle was one.

But it is impossible to over-estimate the sterling nature of Wilson’s work, which includes leading a squad which just departed the Championship without even a whimper, to the play-off final last season at the first attempt.

Likewise the backdrop of churn it has been achieved against.

Scientists studying the attainment of excellence estimate it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to master any given field.

No one is arguing that managers or their charges can only be judged after nearly 7000 matches but, with that in mind, it is worth considering a few facts.

Only three members of the side which started against Bury had featured in Wilson’s first choice eleven for May’s League One showpiece with Huddersfield Town.

Seven of those who took to the field boasted a combined total of 30 appearances for the club, 23 per cent no more than 40 professional outings each in English competition, 54 per cent acquired within the past three months.

Oh, and other than Richard Cresswell, teenage Matty Harriott was the next longest serving player.

Yes, Wilson’s charges average 1.57 points per game this term compared to 2.43 at the same stage last. But it is inevitable they are still work in progress.

As French academic George Louis Leclerc once said: “Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.”

But that still won’t stop people making judgements about United’s latest marque just eight games into its life-span.