Sheffield United: Chris Wilder allays Jan van Winckel fears

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has confirmed he is ready to work with Jan van Winckel, one of the club's new owner's most trusted footballing advisers, in order to help establish his team in the Premier League.

Thursday, 19th September 2019, 11:19 pm
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 12:44 am
Manager Chris Wilder, H.R.H Prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Sa'ud: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Speaking as HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud performed his first public engagement since winning his High Court battle against Kevin McCabe, Wilder insisted he does not view the Belgian as a threat despite suggestions to the contrary.

Van Winckel, who was appointed a United director before the dispute between McCabe and Prince Abdullah spilled into the public arena, has been a close confidant of the Saudi Arabian for over two decades.

Although some supporters fear his presence could prove divisive, particularly if it dilutes Wilder's influence over first team affairs, the 51-year-old said: "There was talk about improving certain aspects of the club. I know the angle (about) Jan. He has been a member of the board for sometime so he has, of course, been involved in the decisions. Anything to improve the club, I am open to.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"But I am a hands-on manager. In terms of Jan's expertise, it is there to be seen in terms of his track record. He has been involved in all of the decisions, recruitment and the like because he's on the board. I'm not pig headed enough to think I know everything."

Van Winckel, aged 45, boasts an impressive CV detailing spells with KV Mechelen, Club Brugge and Beerschot, where he also now works following Prince Abdullah's decision to acquire a stake in the Antwerp based side. Previously Marcelo Bielsa's assistant at Marseille, van Winckel spent a brief period on Al-Hilal's coaching staff, where Prince Abdullah once served as chairman.

Wilder, who signed a new contract earlier this summer, has won two promotions in only three seasons since taking charge of United.

Although there have been times when he has expressed his frustration with events behind the scenes, particularly when McCabe and Prince Abdullah launched rival takeover bids, he hopes Monday's announcement in London will bring greater stability.

"Any manager will tell you, that the ideal scenario and situation is being able to get on with their job to the best of their abilities," Wilder said. "Having support from the owners, only a couple of times have I expressed my frustration towards Prince Abdullah and Kevin. In the majority of times, they have allowed me and Steve (bettis, United's chief executive) to run this club to the best of our ability. I've been in touch with Prince Abdullah throughout my time here, the same with Kevin. That period has been a success."

"If there were problems between the manager and the board, I don't think there would have been that success," Wilder added. "The success we have had, over the past three years, is testament to the support I've had. In an ideal world, and Prince Abdullah and Kevin will say this, is that they wanted a team in the Premier League and that it didn't work out in court."