Sheffield United: The reason behind Chris Wilder's hush hush telephone calls is revealed

At the end of last season, when the dust finally settled on Sheffield United's promotion celebrations, Chris Wilder began canvassing opinion among rival managers.

By James Shield
Thursday, 13 June, 2019, 09:10
Chris Wilder: James Wilson/Sportimage

The purpose of his phone calls was not to gather information on potential new signings. The 51-year-old and his staff, including assistant Alan Knill and head of recruitment Paul Mitchell, had already begun that process several months earlier.

Instead Wilder was seeking out their thoughts about what was required to make the transition from the Championship to the top-flight. Or where those clubs who failed - and often miserably - had gone wrong to be exact. Although the identity of those he spoke with remains a closely guarded secret, together with some of the more controversial insights they relayed, Wilder admits it proved a worthwhile exercise. If only because it confirmed some of his suspicions about the danger of allowing success to cloud your judgement.

"You never know everything, nobody does," Wilder said, as United awaited the release of next season's fixture schedule tomorrow. "Other people have been in this situation and it's good to get their thoughts and standpoints on some of the challenges and pitfalls."

One of the most common pieces of advice Wilder received was to stay true to his principles. United's journey from League One to the highest level of the domestic game has been fuelled by good coaching and astute rather than big money signings. Although some will inevitably demand they now ditch that approach and become more lavish instead, Wilder is adamant the basic tenets of United's player identification system must not change. Even though, as some of their targets this summer confirm, they are now fishing in slightly more fashionable waters.

"Yes, we want to keep pushing the boundaries in everything we do," Wilder said, dismissing the theory that transfer fees are always the best guide to a player's worth. "That's got to be the attitude.

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"But I also think we've got to keep on doing what we've been doing, only slightly better. The way we've gone about things has got us this far so why would we change it now? Personally, I think it would be wrong to do that.

"You see lots of people get up and then go about things in a totally diffrerent way. Sometimes it works. More often than not it doesn't. That's something we're mindful of."

That means United's focus will remain on targets who might not possess a wealth of Premier League experience but who have proven themselves to be capable of making the step up.

"We want people here for the right reasons," Wilder said. "Because character and attitude is a big part of who we are. I don't think the boys who are already here would take kindly to people who weren't of the same mindset and I'm glad about that."