Sheffield United: Chris Wilder reveals family ties to Liverpool and his matchday trips to Anfield

Chris Wilder's story has been chronicled in detail. Every aspect, as Sheffield United blazed a trail out of League One and into the top-flight, researched meticulously and committed to print.

Saturday, 28th September 2019, 2:54 pm
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage via PA Images

Or so we thought. Speaking ahead of Saturday's fixture, which pits his team against the champions of Europe, the 52-year-old revealed a hitherto unknown plot twist which explains why, like Scousers Jack O'Connell and John Lundstram, the meeting with Jurgen Klopp's side is deeply personal.

"My family history is that my dad's from Liverpool and all of them are Liverpool fans," Wilder, who used last weekend's visit to Everton to catch up with some of them, explained yesterday. "So yes, I've been getting lots of requests for tickets. It will be the same for Jack and Lunny, only they'll have had the same not so long back too.

"There's always been a demand on me, because I seem to know half of Sheffield, but now there's others asking me for them as well."

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Chris Wilder spent plenty of time in Liverpool as a youngster: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Despite being born and bred in the Steel City, although his name has become synonymous with The Blades and Bramall Lane, Wilder's biography is actually a lot more diverse than some people might think. He spent time near London, when his father moved there for work, before returning to South Yorkshire and leaving again when Southampton offered him an apprenticeship. It was in between the two, when Wilder was still kicking a ball around Richmond and Arbourthorne, that he became properly acquainted with the North-West.

"They used to say they lived in West Derby but it wasn't really," Wilder laughed, before apologising to his relatives. "It was actually Norris Green and as anybody who knows anything about Liverpool will tell you, that's a working class area of the city.

"We used to go over at Christmas and the odd school holiday. That's when I used to go to Anfield with my uncles.

"It was in the mid-Seventies, when Liverpool were having a huge amount of success."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: Nigel French/PA Wire.

Although they are unlikely to eclipse their predecessors' haul of 13 major trophies during that golden period, Klopp's squad cross the Pennines in ominously rude health. Five points clear at the top of the table after finishing as runners-up last term, they are unbeaten in top-flight competition since January and, as Wilder referenced on several occasions, the Champions League holders.

United, however, are in fine fettle too. Fresh from winning promotion, they prepared for this fixture ranked 10th after adapting quickly to life at the highest level.

It was during last season's dog-fight with Leeds, which saw them pip their arch-rivals to the runners-up berth, that Wilder's players demonstrated they can cope with pressure. It is a quality, although Wilder was quick to downplay any comparisons between the two clubs, Klopp's team also clearly possess.

"I think it's not the most balanced way of looking at it," Wilder responded, after being informed United have averaged nearly two points per game since Liverpool's last league defeat. "What with them playing at the top end of the Premier League. But it's all relative.

Sheffield, Chris Wilder's home city.

"That's one of the things I was delighted with at the back end of last season, when there was a lot of noise and nonsense coming from other clubs about what they were going to do. This football club just kept its head down and that's why we're the ones who, on Saturday afternoon, are going to be playing the European champions."

"The group are not arrogant," Wilder added. "They know they are going to have to work extremely hard and are going to have to keep on working hard. They know they are going to have to produce performances in pressure situations."

If they are to spring a surprise by wrecking Liverpool's unblemished start to the new campaign, United will have to withstand plenty at Bramall Lane. With Sadio Mane recovering from injury, Liverpool have the luxury of being able to name their strongest possible forward line. Wilder is still sweating on David McGoldrick's availability, although Oli McBurnie, Oliver Norwood and John Fleck are among those set to return after starting Wednesday's Carabao Cup defeat by Sunderland on the bench. O’Connell and Lundstram, both Liverpool supporters, should also feature.

"This is, maybe, a game we look at as an occasion and as part of the bigger picture," Wilder said. "That ground is going to be bursting, loud and proud. It's a historic old ground, that in a modern way looks fantastic and feels fantastic to play in. We should be proud that we're entertaining games like this. Then, when the whistle blows, we're off and running trying to make them uncomfortable."

Wilder was named LMA Manager of the Year at the end of last season, while Klopp was nominated for the divisional award.

"I'm looking forward to meeting Jurgen and his staff," Wilder said."Our door will alwsays be open. I'm sure speaking to people, he'll step in and have a chat. We're here and deserve to be here. We'll give it our best shot and leave everything out there on the pitch as we always have done."