Kevin Gage's Blades Column: Why I raised a glass to Chris Wilder and his Sheffield United squad after stunning 4-1 win at Chesterfield

Kevin Gage Column
Kevin Gage Column
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“I love it when a plan comes together.” If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember the character Hannibal Smith from the hit TV show who used to say that line at the end of every episode after another job well done.

Well, the Blades ‘A-Team’ certainly can look back on another comprehensive win, this time over our near neighbours Chesterfield, who I’ll admit put a up decent fight for half hour or so.

Chris Wilders’ on-field matchday plan worked. My off-field matchday plan also couldn’t have gone much better.

I can’t get to as many away games as I’d like, but I always make plans for a trip to Chez. Last Sunday was one I was particularly looking forward to as I’d promised our Dronfield Blades Facebook chat group that I’d hold a get-together to raise a glass to the departure of someone we’d discussed at long length last season, and written volumes of words with regards to his tenure at SUFC.

Therefore the ‘Nigel Adkins Unofficial Leaving Party’ was held at my own venue, The Manor House in Dronfield where lots of Blades enjoyed some breakfast and a few beers, toasted one manager leaving and belatedly welcomed the arrival of another! Yes, OK, the party was technically about six months too late, but better late than never certainly applies on this occasion I’d suggest!

So part one of my ‘Super Sunday’ went fabulously, and after we’d got over the shock of Chez taking a lead after we’d only just got into the ground, part two also eventually went according to plan. A thumping 4-1 win takes our unbeaten league run to a dozen games and having looked at our next few opponents and with six home league games out of the next eight, I’m confident it’s going to stretch a fair bit further yet.

There’s also some quite amazing stats doing the internet rounds. I won’t list them all but this one caught my eye: Chris Wilder has only lost FOUR of 46 league games in the last calendar year. That is truly remarkable, especially when you consider three of those four were with us at the start of the season!

Perhaps it was the shock of the early goal that meant the Blades couldn’t find their usual rhythm during the first half. Sometimes, whatever plans you make before the game have to be torn up due to events or goals scored.

Chesterfield were obviously boosted by the goal and then caused us a few problems. But we coped, and whilst it was never backs-to-the-wall type defending, we had some uncomfortable moments. What gave me confidence that we’d turn it around, though, was the ease in which we created a couple of gilt-edged chances from which we really should have scored.

It also wasn’t the usual kind of ‘blood-and-thunder type’ derby game that we’d seen up at Bradford. In truth Danny Wilson teams don’t really do that, preferring to let their football do the talking.

Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder

Well, this season that style of play suits us perfectly, as when the likes of Coutts, Fleck and Duffy get a grip on the game, get on the ball and dictate the play, there is only going to be one winner.

Chesterfield’s football may have done a bit of talking in the first half, but we certainly shut them up and they didn’t get a word in edgeways in the second!

So, we’ve all been enthusing in past weeks about how Chris Wilder and his staff have instilled the passion, the enthusiasm, the desire, and all those similar descriptive qualities into the Blades squad, and how proud we are of this team once again.

All that is, of course, true and after far too many years adrift, the bond between the fans and the players is most definitely back. I wrote weeks ago that this manager will give us a team to believe in once again and will drive the team forward.

Paul Coutts

Paul Coutts

But something else needs to be noted amidst all this chest-thumping raw emotion.

It wasn’t anything particularly physical that got us back into the game on Sunday. It wasn’t anything from a mental point of view either. It also wasn’t because we ran faster or worker harder than Chesterfield. If every game was decided by fitness, strength or speed then the fittest, strongest and quickest team would win every match.

A successful team does of course need to have those attributes mentioned to be able to compete, but it also needs a certain something else. Basically, it also needs talent.

It needs pure footballing ability in key areas and at crucial times. What got us back into the game on Sunday to a large extent was the sheer quality of the players in our side at the moment. We simply had far better players than Chesterfield, and in the end it really showed.

I’ve already mentioned our midfield three, and in this division there can’t be a better combination. They simply controlled the second half completely. In fact everywhere you look around our side we seem to have quality, with good ability on the ball and good techniques to deliver what’s needed at the right time.

Chris Wilder has not only galvanised and improved the players he inherited in the summer, he has also recruited some top quality players as well. This season we’ve signed Fleck, Duffy, Wright, Ebanks-Landell, Moore, Lafferty and Chapman who have all had a hugely positive impact on the team.

Jack O’Connell can also be added to that list, even though he can’t even get a game at the moment. His time in a Blades shirt will come, as will Leon Clarke’s I’m sure.

These players mentioned, plus the others that have signed, or will sign in future, already are the right type of character required to be a member of a Chris Wilder squad. What he’s also able to do now, given the financial backing, is sign good quality players that fit into this SUFC and managers ethos.

Natural ability, good technique, athleticism and intelligence, combined with drive, determination, enthusiasm and passion... fit your own words into those two areas of requirement if you want but you’ll understand what I’m getting at.

It’s combining all those character traits together and getting the balance right for the team. At the moment, Chris appears to be doing so perfectly.

He seems to know what he’s doing, this Wilder chap. I’ll happily accept another four defeats in 46 games this coming calendar year, and I’ll pencil in another party at The Manor House... a promotion one. I’ve also booked his leaving party, by the way. Don’t worry, it’s not until 2026! UTB.

Kevin Gage owns The Manor House bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield. @ManorHouse_S18. Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev