Kevin Gage's Sheffield United Column: Chris Wilder on course to become a 'great' Blades manager

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I’m absolutely certain that every single person reading this has played at being a football manager at some stage of their lives.

Whether it’s been picking a Blades team in a pub with your mates, or disagreeing with just about every England manager in modern history about their latest squad or team selection, we’ve all been there and done that. Of course in the past decade or so thanks to technological wizardry we can replicate just about every single managerial scenario over a keyboard computer game & see instant on-screen results. We’re all therefore great managers in our own little on-line world & inside our heads.

Chris Wilder is has the job for real of course, and after another home win on Boxing Day, I think it’s safe to say that he’s confirmed our initial thoughts that he was a very good manager indeed, and is also well on track to becoming a ‘great’ manager in SUFC history. Time will tell of course. ‘Time’ as in about four months in fact.

But across from the Blades technical area is always an opposition manager, who has probably also put in the years of hard work required, has the knowledge & intelligence to prepare and organize a team , and will be equally as determined and ambitious to win games of football and be considered ‘great’ in their own football community.

Every single manager whose team is due to visit Bramall Lane will have planned for the match weeks in advance, and you can be 100% certain that in the week of training beforehand, both the opposition manager and his players will be looking forward to testing themselves and their collective game plan in front of 20,000+ fans and against arguably the best team in the league. It’s a cliché of course, but to the vast majority of League One teams, a visit to Bramall Lane is actually their ‘cup final’.

As Chris Wilder mentioned in an interview after the Oldham game that their players had ‘raised their game’ to play us and were unrecognizable from the team he’d scouted a couple of weeks back. It doesn’t actually reflect too well on the Oldham players as it also implies that they can perform to a higher standard and with more intensity, but only when the occasion suits them. Clearly they’re fine in front of a big Boxing Day crowd in a superb Sheffield United stadium and on a perfect pitch, but on a cold Tuesday night at a smaller ground in front of a sparse crowd? Obviously not, as they’re bottom of the league.

It’s a question of the Blades I expanded on a bit in last weeks article, but suffice to say that we seem to consistently come up with not only performances, but answers to the various questions and problems other teams try to cause us. This has been especially evident at home recently, and we also, in the words of the manager, “turn up”. We put in a level of intensity and commitment that is expected and indeed demanded of a Blades team, be it at home, or away in front of our thousands of followers. As a team, we won’t wilt when teams raise the game at Bramall Lane. We will match whatever they throw at us. We find a way to get a result, and our superior quality will usually tell in the end. If it ever doesn’t, and under this manager, it won’t be for lack of trying.

Against Oldham in the first half we did struggle to get our game going somewhat as Oldham competed for every single ball, were full of energy up front and also used a five man defensive line quite high up the pitch, as opposed to the dropping back & using the ‘parking the bus’ tactic employed by some. I’d called the game as a home banker beforehand, but at half-time I must admit to having some doubts as to where a breakthrough was coming.

However as we kept up the second halt tempo and pressure, Chris showed in managerial terms why he may well soon go from being good to great in the eyes of Blades fans. Leon Clarke was a crucial introduction as a sub & gave us presence & strength, and a new dimension up front. I’ve said before that he’ll yet play a big part this season, and it looks as if it’s going to be as a so-called ‘impact sub’ as the season pans out. Whilst he’ll want to start games, if promotion is the ultimate objective it’s a price and a role he’ll hopefully accept.

So, we won, it’s another three points secured, and we move to just a point behind Scunthorpe. The season is exactly half way through and it’s looking like the two auto-promotion places may well be between us, Scunthorpe and Bolton. We play both of them at home in mid-February, they will come with a game plan and their players will be “up for it” no doubt. To be honest I don’t care what they come with. We are good enough to cope, good enough to find a way to win, and good enough to go up. Time will indeed tell, but if the latter happens, it won’t just be good. Like our manager, it’ll be bloody great! UTB

Kevin Gage owns The Manor House: bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield, S18. @ManorHouse_S18

Follow him on twitter: @gageykev