Sheffield United: Chris Wilder reveals what he told his former player Che Adams ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Birmingham City
Two days ago, at the English Football League's annual awards ceremony in London, Che Adams and Chris Wilder shared a brief conversation before the prizes were handed-out.
It was amicable rather than awkward. The two men, according to one mutual acquaintance, appeared remarkably relaxed as they swapped pre-dinner pleasantries.
Time truly is a great healer because, when Adams joined Birmingham City nearly three years ago, their relationship seemed damaged beyond repair. Thirty-two months later, as his team prepared for tomorrow's visit to St Andrews, Sheffield United's manager was still feeling charitable when explaining the youngster's motives for leaving Bramall Lane.
"Che wanted to go and it was okay," Wilder said. "Hats off to him, he made the right decision. It was right at the time because we needed that money to invest in other areas.
"We needed to strengthen the squad in other departments and had to sacrifice a young player to do that. I think we've got a sell-on with him too, so we're protected with that. He's certainly doing well."
Adams has come a long way since the days, before arriving at United in 2014, he was scratching a living with non-league Ilkeston. After being signed by Wilder's predecessor Nigel Clough, former colleagues at the New Manor Ground recounted how Adams used to beg and borrow his bus fare to training. A post-match glass of Coke was an unnecessary extravagance.
Scroll four seasons forward and he has the world at his feet. Having scored 22 goals for City so far this term, Adams appears destined for the Premier League with Everton reportedly considering a £10m bid.
Wilder, whose side climbed to second in the Championship when they beat Preston North End last weekend, has first hand experience of how these situations can pan-out. United were still a third tier club when he was appointed and, despite acknowledging their squad was in desperate need of an overhaul, had privately expressed a desire to work with Adams until economics intervened. City submitted a bid and United rejected it. But after being informed by Adams' representative that his client was intent on forcing through the move, Wilder begrudgingly relented.
Although he was less than impressed at the time, the 51-year-old admitted yesterday that, with the benefit of hindsight, things had worked out for the best. Adams' wish was fulfilled and United used the £2m fee they received to build a promotion winning team.
"Che got regular football," Wilder said. "Who knows if he's have got that here at the time? In any case, we used the money to bring in people we needed like (goalkeeper) Simon Moore and Leon Clarke who went on to do brilliant in his second season after the boys got up."
United travelled to the Midlands last night chasing their second automatic promotion under Wilder, who hopes Jack O'Connell could declare himself fit following a calf injury. City are fighting for survival at the opposite end of the table after being handed a nine point deduction for breaching the competition's Profit and Sustainability regulations.
However, as their recent victory over United's arch-rivals and fellow top-flight hopefuls Leeds demonstrated, City's position in the rankings does not reflect the talent at Garry Monk's disposal. Adams scored the only goal of the game midway through the first-half of their meeting with Marcelo Bielsa's side.
"Their league position, without what happened, would see them pushing for the play-offs," Wilder reminded. "They've got a good group of players, a very settled bunch, and so we're expecting this to be another tight match."