Alan Biggs' Sheffield United Column: Why Frank Lampard's Chelsea move shows how lucky Blades are to have Chris Wilder - who reminds one ex-Blade of Brian Clough
This is a tale about Frank Lampard and Chris Wilder, also featuring Brian Clough.
One season as a manager. Finishes sixth in the Championship with a big club at that level, just misses promotion in the play-off final. Not bad, not brilliant either. Set to be given one of the biggest jobs in football.
Eighteen seasons as a manager. Clocks-up fifth promotion (all levels), leads team to Premier League. Doesn’t get touted for one of the biggest jobs in football; in fact, not even close.
The difference between Lampard and Wilder is in one having an illustrious playing career and being a bigger name. No relevance to management whatsoever.
Nothing reflects the eccentricity and nonsense nature of the game more than a former England midfielder’s imminent appointment by Chelsea after a barely half-served apprenticeship.
Good luck to Frank, an intelligent and agreeable character who can hardly be blamed for responding to the overtures of his former team and is blessed with a level head at any altitude.
But it does tend to highlight Sheffield United’s even greater good fortune in possessing a manager who, in a world of logic rather than emotion, would be pursued by clubs of any size.
Sometimes it can be an enemy, rather than a friend, who pays the biggest compliment and puts things in the truest perspective.
One such comment came to my ears last week from a man who proudly insists: “I’ve never been to Bramall Lane since I left and I don’t intend to.”
Terry Curran - he of Boxing Day Massacre fame and a Wednesday scourge of United who subsequently had a short and unhappy alliance with the Blades - previously played for Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest: “The best thing since sliced bread in management for me.”
Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
So when lifelong Owl Curran says Wilder “reminds me a little bit of Cloughie” you stop and listen.
“What he’s done at Sheffield United is similar to what Forest did,” says the TC of the blue half. “Absolutely fabulous. His football and thinking has been terrific.”
The similarity? “He’s lifted those players and made them believe they’re better than what they are.”
Now that last bit is arguable. You could say those players have performed at a level long enough to be applauded in their own right. And no-one is suggesting either that Wilder will win two Champions Leagues! Well, not here and not yet anyway.
But, as the club’s joint owners wind up their High Court battle for control, it does make Curran’s final word on the subject resonate.
“I think the board of directors want to stop squabbling because you don’t want to lose him,” he says.
Derby losing Lampard is not even at the races by comparison.
And much as I applaud the landing of a lucrative shirt deal (United are always big on the corporate side), for me the real business of the club - “going forward,” as they say - is to create the conditions for Wilder to stay long-term.
Whatever a new contract might say, they are far from that at the moment.