Sheffield United: Chris Wilder explains his response to Dean Henderson's amazing prediction

If anyone else had uttered those words, he would have come down on them harder than a ton of concrete bricks.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 4:22 pm
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 11:25 pm
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Ian Walton/PA Wire.

But when Dean Henderson tipped himself to become the best goalkeeper in the world, Chris Wilder simply smiled and then laughed before continuing preparations for Monday's game against Arsenal.

The visit of Unai Emery's side marks Henderson's first appearance for Sheffield United since returning from international duty with England. Although he failed to appear in either of their meetings with the Czech Republic or Bulgaria, the 22-year-old's presence in Gareth Southgate's squad confirmed he has taken another important step towards achieving his target.

More importantly for United's prospects of beating the Londoners, however, was Wilder's reaction to the youngster's latest claim. Coming less than an hour after George Baldock refused to discuss his prospects of following in Henderson's footsteps - "This manager won't stand for distractions or anything like that" - it revealed how Wilder and his staff study the personality of their players before deciding how to draw the best out of them.

Darren Ward of Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

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"Dean has a natural ability as a goalkeeper, to keep the ball out of the back of the net," Wilder said. "If it came from someone else, I might have something to say about it. But Dean is Dean. Everyone is different. He knows the standards he's got, and wants to for that matter, to set."

The way Wilder, Alan Knill and their coach Matt Prestridge handle those at their disposal is at odds with the picture painted by some following the United manager's decision to publicly criticise Henderson following his slip against Liverpool. Although it did not prevent Southgate from summoning him to St George's Park for the Three Lions' recent round of Euro 2020 qualifiers, failing to smother Georginio Wijnaldum's second-half shot helped deny his team what would have been their most eye-catching result since being promoted last term. Rather than crossing the line between honesty and acceptability as many commentators claimed, Wilder's response revealed a sophisticated approach to man-management, which recognises squads are made up of individuals, not homogeneous robots. Henderson's came in the shape of a man-of-the-match performance during United's goalless draw with Watford; a result which saw them prepare for the visit of Arsenal ranked 13th in the Premier League table.

Although Wilder is happy to let Henderson continue to plug his credentials, describing his pursuit of excellence as an example for others to follow, it was telling he also chose to highlight the contribution Darren Ward has made to the player's progress. Capped five times by Wales, Ward is now tasked with overseeing the development of Henderson and his fellow goalkeepers Simon Moore and Michael Verrips. A former professional with Nottingham Forest and Notts County, Ward has established an excellent reputation since becoming a coach.

"Dean is a confident boy, he backs himself to do well," Wilder said. "Darren is bringing him on really well. I've got full confidence in Darren. When Dean makes a mistake, it's me. When he does well, it's Darren.

Dean Henderson with England at St George's Park: James Wilson/Sportimage

"He (Henderson) is confident and he's popular," Wilder continued. "He wants more and I love that attitude. It runs through my squad. These boys want to prove themselves. Some have had opportunities and others haven't. But they feel this is where they can play their best football, at this club and in this division."