Sheffield United: Chris Wilder confronts the 'noise and nonsense' merchants

The painted smile, coupled with an almost imperceptible shake of his head , told you all you needed to know about Chris Wilder's thoughts on the subject.

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 22:40 pm
Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage via PA Images

After all, this is someone who has achieved promotion despite working with a squad which was not getting paid.

But rather than react angrily to suggestions his interpersonal skills are lacking after refusing to "put an arm" around Sheffield United Dean Henderson last weekend, the manager responsible for giving him a Premier League opportunity explained why they are a nonsense in the politest possible terms.

"I like to think the record here shows I can man-manage," Wilder said, reflecting upon his response to the goalkeeper's costly error during United's meeting with Liverpool. "Also at Northampton (Town), where we went up, and Halifax, where we got into the play-offs, even though the lads weren't getting any wages."

Saturday's visit to Watford, which pits United against opponents without a top-flight win this term, will see Henderson make his first public appearance since allowing Georginio Wijnaldum's shot to fly through his legs five days ago. Although he later atoned for his mistake, denying an unmarked Mo Salah from point-blank range, the slip meant his team mates' herculean effort when unrewarded.

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By refusing to downplay the blunder's significance, Wilder found himself being criticised in some quarters for a lack of sympathy with one presenter, employed by a national radio station, even suggesting his approach might damage Henderson's mental well-being.

Wilder clearly felt those comments were a no-nonsense. And, given his understanding of the 22-year-old's character, for good reason.

"Some of it lacks depth," Wilder said. "But you have to get on at times. Sometimes I think people just say something to create debate.

"It's as we manage. The players, Dean included, are mentally tough. Especially with where they've come from. "They're tough guys and we create a tough mentality. But I've got to say, I'm the biggest supporter of these boys. Dean knows that. Bits and pieces get talked about. Some of the stuff that gets talked about, I agree with. Other stuff, I think it's noise and nonsense."

Blunt, honest and forthright, Wilder's approach to interviews has not changed since the day, 41 months ago, when he accepted the challenge of leading United out of the third tier and back to the highest level. But what has is the scrutiny Wilder is now under, as he sets about trying to establish them in world football's most talked about domestic competition. Folk complain it is being shorn of its characters. Then, without appreciating the irony, criticise those who show some.

"He knows it's a tough week," Wilder said. "There's nobody more disappointed than him. But that's the lonely world of a football goalkeeper. Dean comes roaring back when he's made mistakes. I've got no problems with Dean, none whatsoever.

"I was critical of my forwards in the changing room before. But nobody asked me that question did they. It's at both ends of the pitch."