'It is what it is' - Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder expects financial inequality to remain in Premier League
Money will remain the most important weapon a team can possess in the battle for Premier League survival, Chris Wilder has warned, as he begins applying the finishing touches to the plan he believes can help Sheffield United return to the top-flight at the earliest possible opportunity when their relegation is confirmed.
Wilder’s comments, which come as officials behind the scenes privately begin laying the groundwork for life back in the Championship, are designed to ensure United put themselves in a position whereby they can compete for players with track records of success at the highest level of the English game should they win promotion next term.
The past four transfer windows have seen the 53-year-old and his coaching staff focus almost exclusively on targets with the potential to become elite performers, rather than those of proven ability in the competition.
Highlighting the correlation between spending power and results in a competition dominated by financial behemoths, Wilder was speaking after Pep Guardiola acknowledged Manchester City’s ability to lavish over a billion pounds on talent since their takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment is ultimately responsible for their remarkable rise to prominence over the past decade-and-a-half.
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At the other end of the table, Tony Bloom has ploughed huge sums into Brighton and Hove Albion in order to give them a foothold in the division. Yet Graham Potter’s side enter the latest round of fixtures only one place above the relegation zone.
Asked if competition chiefs should adopt measures to address the situation, Wilder insisted United must confront the realities of the PL rather than pin their hopes on legislation which he believes will never arrive.
“Nothing will change in football, with the gap, and I don’t think it should,” the United manager said. “It is what it is. It’s not American football, where they do things differently. We have to accept it and go with it.”
Although Wilder is refusing to publicly admit defeat in the scramble to climb out of the bottom three, the fact United are preparing for Sunday’s visit to Leicester City 12 points adrift of safety with only 10 matches remaining has persuaded him to begin drafting a strategy for life back in the second tier.
As The Star reported last week, some of its central planks have led to tension between the 53-year-old and United’s board of directors. But the fact Wilder has even started the process confirms his preference is to try and iron out those differences, rather than agree a parting of the ways at the end of the campaign.
Despite accepting many household names are likely to remain beyond United’s reach for the foreseeable future, he would like them to be equipped to challenge for players of Jeff Hendrick’s stature should they go up next term. Together with Callum Wilson, who also joined Newcastle, Ollie Watkins and his former Brentford team mate Neal Maupay - now of Aston Villa and Albion respectively - the trio have all featured on Wilder’s radar since United’s promotion from the Championship in 2019.
“There’s always a Cinderella story,” Wilder said. “I mean this with total respect but City and Chelsea weren’t always what they are now. What’s happened is brilliant for their supporters. I’d quite like to be that Cinderella story.”