Identified: The qualities the next man in charge of Sheffield United will be required to demonstrate
The identity of the person with the unenviable task of replacing Chris Wilder is not yet known, although there will be no shortage of people trying to fill the vacancy.
But the qualities the 53-year-old’s successor must possess in order to succeed at Bramall Lane are, as Sheffield United get set to begin the search for someone capable of not only winning football matches but also hearts and minds on the terraces. Despite his team’s recent struggles, Wilder’s legacy includes two promotions, a ninth placed finish in the Premier League and turning the relationship between the club and its support base into one of the most passionate romances in English football.
Tactical flexibility, a willingness to work within parameters created by someone else, will be the most important trait Wilder’s replacement has to demonstrate. After nearly five seasons in charge, United’s squad has been constructed and shaped to play a specific way - with Wilder’s pioneering take on the 3-5-2 system, involving overlapping centre-halves and attacking wing-backs, meaning there are no wingers at their disposal.
With no natural replacement available for the injured Jack O’Connell either, a tweak of shape appears inevitable. But the trouble Wilder experienced as he attempted to preserve United’s strategy after the Liverpudlian was forced to undergo knee surgery underlines the difficulty facing whoever steps into the breach following the manager’s expected departure.
With United almost certainly destined for relegation back to the Championship following a miserable run of results, a knowledge of the transfer market in the English Football League - or at least an understanding of its unique challenges - is another prerequisite.
If United do go down, Wilder has left a gift in the shape of an extended parachute payment plan after guiding them to survival last term. But this must be spent wisely, particularly given the pressure to make an immediate return and challenges facing EFL sides during the Covid-19 pandemic.
New arrivals are inevitable, as owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s chosen candidate begins shaping the playing staff to reflect their own strategic plans. But so are exits, as some members of the side look to prolong their top-flight careers elsewhere.
However, if the likes of Oli McBurnie and Rhian Brewster stay put, United will boast a strikeforce which has already proven its ability to score goals - and plenty of them - in the second tier. Excellent powers of persuasion should feature prominently on the board of directors checklist as they begin the recruitment process.
An aptitude for politics is another essential trait, with United’s owners expected to view Wilder’s departure as an opportunity to claw back influence in certain areas.
By his own admission, the former Northampton Town, Halifax and Oxford chief was a micromanager; involving himself in aspects of the club’s footballing operations.
The new appointment is unlikely to enjoy the same power, and must embrace the ‘United World’ project - a growing network of global partnerships promoted by Prince Abdullah and his associate Abdullah Alghamdi - which is set to become increasingly prominent as they look to negotiate their way through the post-Brexit landscape.