Sheffield United fan column: The substitution that summed up Chris Wilder’s attitude to the game

There was one moment against Brentford that summed up Chris Wilder’s attitude to football.

By Matthew Bell
Thursday, 14 March, 2019, 10:43
Jack O'Connell

An hour played, with United a man down and battling to hold on to a 1-0 lead, Wilder takes off his right back and brings on his leading-scorer centre forward.

Like most of his decisions, it proved to be the right one, as Billy Sharp gave David McGoldrick support in attack as well as hustling back to cover when needed.

Also entirely understandable were Wilder’s half-time substitutions: McGoldrick’s movement and ability to hold the ball posed Brentford new problems, and moving Chris Basham forward to stiffen the midfield and replacing him at the back with the unflappable Martin Cranie was exactly the right thing to do.

Brentford fell victim to their own attractive, but rigid, style of play, forever trying to intricately manoeuvre the ball in and never once trying something different to get past the impregnable Jack O’Connell and John Egan, two players who were mysteriously surplus to requirements at Griffin Park.

At 2-0 down they should have sent a centre half up front and gone direct, but they were unable to change.

A few of our opponents this season have had this drawback, something that certainly cannot be levelled at the Blades.

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We have won in many different ways.

A year or so back a fellow Blade told me that O’Connell was the best left-footed English central defender in the game.

It seemed a bold statement at the time, but I can’t think of a better one.

He will celebrate his 25th birthday on Brexit (or non-Brexit) day, and will only improve as he gets older.

He is said to have cost £250,000 but he must be worth fifty times that now.