Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder remembers the day he helped make history with Brighton and Hove Albion ahead of AMEX clash

Saturday, August 7, 1999. A date that will live forever in the history of Brighton and Hove Albion, as they returned from two years of exile in Gillingham to tear apart Mansfield Town 6-0.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:43 pm
Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield Utd: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

It was a perfect homecoming for the Seagulls, who began life at their 'temporary' home of the Withdean Stadium which was to remain their base for 12 years.

In defence for Brighton on that historic day was one Chris Wilder, making one of the handful of appearances he made in the blue and white stripes after his second spell at Sheffield United came to an end.

That day, 5,882 crammed into the athletics stadium and just over 20 years later, that number will be closer to 30,000 as the Blades - and Wilder - make their first visit to the gleaming AMEX Stadium to face his former club.

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Sheffield United v Brighton - 10th January 1987 - Picture shows new signing Chris Wilder in action

"They've certainly come a long way since then," Wilder admitted. "It was always a big club and I made my debut against them actually, way back in the day - 1987 I think it was.

"It's always been a big club, it has a big catchment area and they love their football down there. In that period I had down there, home and away it was always sold out.

"But you can't comprehend it really, your team playing 60 or 70 miles away in Gillingham. Imagine us playing 60-70 miles away from Sheffield?

"But the following of the supporters and the love of the club they had was immense and now they are at a completely different level to what they were then.

Bob Booker

"Micky Adams was instrumental in getting them through the leagues with two promotions, and obviosuly I played under him. I enjoyed playing under him, because he was a fabulous manager.

"The way the club is now, it is obviously set up to be a big Premier League club with sell-out support, good players, good facilities and a good manager. They'll want to kick on into the top ten as well."

When his team stride out onto the turf, though, Wilder will only be looking forward rather than back. His Blades will be looking to continue their remarkable unbeaten away record, which actually stretches back to January when Swansea - managed by current Brighton boss Graham Potter - beat the Blades 1-0, thanks to Oli McBurnie's goal.

Wilder will not be the only Blade returning to an old club, either. Ollie Norwood, who could captain the Blades again if Billy Sharp is named on the bench, was jettisoned by the Seagulls after helping them win promotion to the Premier League, before joining United last season and helping them out of the Championship too. For good measure, he won the play-off final in his season in between, while on loan at Fulham.

Ollie Norwood

Asked if the signing of Norwood ranks as his best during his time as Blades boss, Wilder admitted: "There have been some decent ones along the way, and there has had to be because of the market we've been shopping in. We had the seventh lowest budget in the Championship so to get into the Premier League is fabulous.

"We did a deal for Ollie which suited us, he had a couple of promotions under his belt and I imagine was dreading the call from me in the summer saying 'thanks very much Ollie but...'

"That was never going to happen, though. He's been outstanding, as many players have, and I'm delighted he's played a big part in our success."

Another former Seagull who had a big impact at Bramall Lane was Bob Booker, a fans' favourite who was signed by Dave Bassett towards the end of his playing career in 1988 and later helped United return to the old First Division in 1990 after a 14-year absence.

Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield Utd: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“Chris was the first player who spoke to me at training when I arrived in Sheffield and our friendship started on that first day,” Booker said.

“He heard I was living in a hotel and invited me to stay at his house instead.

“Tony Agana and I each had a room there, and then later I stayed with his mum and dad, Joan and Paul.

“I’m not at all surprised that he has been a success when you look at what he has achieved, starting out at Alfreton and Halifax and getting Oxford and Northampton promoted. And to get Sheffield United, his home town club, to the Premier League is fantastic.

“He has a great knowledge of football, but he doesn’t act like a big-time manager.

“We went out to a pub after they played Aston Villa last weekend and he was with all the locals playing pool and having a drink, the same bloke he was when he was a player. Yes, he’s in the public eye nowadays but he will never change.

“By the way, I beat him at pool.”