Sheffield United: Chris Wilder is the Championship manager of the month
Chris Wilder has been named Championship Manager of the Month for April, beating fellow nominees Dean Smith, Graham Potter and Paul Cook to the award after leading Sheffield United to automatic promotion.
George Burley, who chairs the judging panel, cited the 51-year-old's ability to maintain his players' focus during the battle for a top two finish as a critical factor behind its decision.
United have averaged more than two points per game since the end of March. That run, including last weekend's victory over Burley's former club Ipswich Town, means they enter Sunday's final round of competition in second and five ahead of third-placed Leeds.
"Chris Wilder has kept Sheffield United’s focus on securing promotion through the whole season," the former Scotland chief said. "Never more so than in the massively important final games during the traditionally tense month of April.
"Fourteen points from six games was enough, as their rivals fell away. Wilder is a Blades’ hero and has taken the club to the Premier League with attractive and attacking football."
Don Goodman, of sponsors SkyBet, also described United's ability to cope with pressure as decisive. While Wilder's squad travels to the bet365 Stadium hoping to record its fourth straight win, and potentially wrestle the title from leaders Norwich City, Marcelo Bielsa's team is without a victory in three outings.
"April is the month when the pressure to get points reaches boiling point if you’re in the hunt for promotion or striving to fend off relegation," Goodman said.
"The Blades started April two points behind Leeds and the question was who would stand strong and hold their nerve to take the second automatic promotion spot."
"After unsettling draws with Birmingham and Millwall, Wilder’s man management skills enabled him to rally his troops and win three straight games to nil," Goodman added. "He is now, deservedly, a Premier League manager for the first time in his career.’"
United enter the meeting with Nathan Jones' side three points behind City, who finish their campaign with a trip to Aston Villa, but with a superior goal difference.
After drawing a line under United's celebrations earlier this week, Wilder said: "That (first place) is what we're trying to get now. We're approaching this one the same as we have all our matches, with the same intensity."