Sheffield United: Chris Wilder, Sean Dyche and their unofficial collective of fellow managers

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: James Wilson/SportimageSheffield United manager Chris Wilder: James Wilson/Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: James Wilson/Sportimage
He didn't actually name them; the managers who, after striking up friendships off the pitch, have entered into pact to help each other cope with the demands of their profession.

But, listening to Chris Wilder outline his respect for Burnley's Sean Dyche, it did not take a genius to work out the two count themselves as members of this semi-secret group.

"I played against Sean a few times," Wilder said, ahead of tomorrow's meeting between his Sheffield United side and the visitors from Turf Moor. "It doesn't bother me that he's younger than me, he's had more success than me and he's been through the process. There's quite a few managers I would pick up the phone to and he is definitely one.

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"It is an individual sport, but there is that feeling in the professional game that if anyone will help you out, they will do. I'm grateful to him for picking up the phone, with the success he's had."

Walter Smith: Andrew Milligan/PA WireWalter Smith: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Walter Smith: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Dyche, who recently celebrated his seventh anniversary in charge of the Lancastrians, has overcome a number of hurdles, not least financial ones, to establish Burnley as a Premier League club. His success was one of the reasons why Wilder, previously of Northampton Town, sought his advice when United won promotion from the Championship last term. The knowledge Dyche passed on has been put to good effect with Wilder's squad, eighth in the table, a five places above their latest opponents.

"He's a Northamptonshire boy and his lad was in the academy when I was there," Wilder said. "I've not really talked to Sean tactically. Everything I've talked about has been non-football if you like, other things that surround the Premier League. Possibly in the Championship too. There were personal situations and things like that."

"There are certain ones I won't name that I wouldn't ring," Wilder continued. "But we're all after the same thing for our clubs and that's three points. The battle takes place on the pitch. That's why I can be pals with Sean. But for that period during the game, we're after the points. I would think Sean has people he speaks to as well, that we have a little bit of a collective."

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Listening to Wilder speak about the art of management provides enough clues to identify, with a fair degree of certainty, who completes the group. Tony Pulis is frequently cited as an influence, together with Eddie Howe of AFC Bournemouth. Despite his recent spell in charge of United's neighbours Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle's Steve Bruce is also known to have been a source of encouragement during the early part of Wilder's managerial career.

Tony Pulis: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.Tony Pulis: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Tony Pulis: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

Last month, the 52-year-old was also a member of the audience when Walter Smith, who led Rangers to 10 Scottish titles, addressed an audience of fellow coaches.

"Walter Smith was up here a couple of weeks ago," Wilder revealed. "It's great that the LMA (League Managers' Association) have that ability, to put on things where you can speak to people like that. There's a lot oif quality in the game. England is unique country in football if you look at how many professional teams we've got and also how many of the non-league teams work to a professional standard. You take your own path but there's a lot of untapped quality beneath the surface."

Although they employ different systems, Wilder highlighted the similarities between United and Burnley during his pre-match media conference on Thursday afternoon. One, the emphasis on team work, is why he has warned his squad to prepare for a gruelling encounter.

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"Sean goes his way and I go my way," Wilder said. "The one thing we both ask our teams to do is run around and compete. I'm not embarrassed to say that's what I want my teams to do. Being organised and being disciplined. I'm not embarrassed by that and I don't think I should be. I don't think Sean should be either."