Sheffield United: Chris Wilder proves his critics wrong yet again
Two months ago, when he was adjudged to have committed the cardinal sin of daring to criticise a player, Chris Wilder received his first taste of the scrutiny and sometimes hysterical commentary surrounding Premier League managers.
Dean Henderson didn’t have a problem.
In fact, after his error against Liverpool help cost Sheffield United the game, the goalkeeper responded by keeping back to back clean sheets.
But some figures in the media felt otherwise, claiming Wilder had threatened the 22-year-old’s mental wellbeing by highlighting his mistake.
It was, of course, a nonsense as Henderson’s elevation into the senior England squad demonstrated.
But the narrative surrounding his actions contributed to Wilder’s image as an old school manager who rules by fear; a portrayal he is quick to oppose.
“The perception of me is being this hard task master,” Wilder said.
“But I talk to the players, and tell them how well they’ve done to come back from disappointments.
“They’re a good group and they keep going.
“That should tell you everything you need to know about them.”
Actions speak louder than words, however, and Wilder’s conduct during a run of games which continues at Norwich City on Sunday proves, beyond all reasonable doubt, that criticism of his methods is not only misguided but also desperately wide of the mark. In fact, they are far more insightful and sophisticated than many people suggest.
While Henderson is viewed as someone who responds to an iron fist - Wilder has been studying his personality since signing him on loan from Manchester United 18 months ago - David McGoldrick is usually handled with velvet gloves when his performances are scrutinised. After missing a good chance during last weekend’s draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers - he travels to Carrow Road without a top-flight goal this term - Wilder admitted he sought out the Republic of Ireland striker in the dressing room afterwards. Even though, speaking before Thursday’s defeat by Newcastle, he denied trying to lift McGoldrick’s spirits after the striker had acknowledged his slip before leaving Molineux.
“David doesn’t need a lift,” Wilder said, citing the contribution McGoldrick made to United’s promotion from the Championship. “He’s an experienced boy. It wasn’t an apology but there was no aggravation from anybody. They are just an honest group of players. When situations like that come around, they are met with honesty from fellow players.”
“He had a little spell last year and then he was off and running and got into double figures,” Wilder added. “I’m positive he can do that again this year. It will come, and I’m delighted that we are creating chances.”