Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United column: Promotion would confirm Chris Wilder’s managerial masterclass

As a general truth, football managers are over-praised and over-criticised.

Wednesday, 24th April 2019, 3:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th April 2019, 4:53 pm
Chris Wilder

But no hailing will be too high and no plaudit over-pitched if Chris Wilder leads Sheffield United back to the Premier League this weekend – or next.

Quite simply, it will be a work of genius. Absolutely magnificent. A managerial masterclass.

As regular readers would hopefully agree, this column tries its best to avoid hype. Whether it’s a positive or a negative comment, balance is attempted.

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In this one case, the acclaim is unconfined and off the scale. Because I’m not sure there is another manager in the game who could have matched Wilder’s work at Sheffield United, let alone surpassed it.

Credit to all his management team and every player, of course. Alan Knill, Matt Prestridge, Paul Mitchell and co have been highly influential; skipper Billy Sharp and a dressing room full of committed, together, constantly performing professionals have excelled throughout.

But it all comes from the top in the end, the man who takes the credit if it works and the blame if it doesn’t.

Wilder’s vision from the outset and the way he has executed it – on one of the Championship’s lower budgets and amid boardroom turmoil – has been simply sensational.

Look at his outstanding overall career to know that, one way or the other, he was going all the way to the top – from all the way down at the bottom. Doing it with Sheffield United was always his much preferred route. And the only way Sheffield United could be sure of keeping him.

Remember now how that relationship was so severely put to the test last summer when, after a tearaway promotion and a fine first season back in the second tier, Wilder took a public stand to keep his dream alive.

Not for him to shrug his shoulders and walk away to any of a number of job offers that would have awaited him.

Instead, he confronted the ownership battle at the top of the club – the situation, not the people – and by force of will garnered enough support from warring factions to make promotion attainable.

Credit to those parties, also, for seeing the bigger picture and to chef executive Stephen Bettis for crucially bridging the gap between them in support of the manager.

Beat relegated Ipswich at a bouncing Bramall Lane on Saturday and majorly superior goal difference virtually assures second place however Leeds fare against Aston Villa. No result is a given in the Championship but, from this page of March 13th, I’ve been convinced United would do it; that players and manager had total belief about seeing the job through.

For Wilder, that realisation came much earlier. In a private aside back in the build-up to the January window, when I thought top six was maximum, he steadfastly aimed higher and insisted he “knew how to do it.”

Without wishing to tempt fate, but without any fear whatsoever of doing so, ALL of Sheffield United’s support – some statement, that – surely believes that the momentous day is upon us.

Be at Bramall Lane around 7.10pm on Saturday.