Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder admits he'll always be grateful for Jim Smith's help after "great man" passes away, at age 79

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder admits he will always be grateful to Jim Smith for helping him on the path to the Premier League, after the Sheffield-born former manager passed away yesterday aged 79.

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 12:22 pm

Smith was influential in appointing Wilder as Oxford United boss in 2008, and the current United manager repaid the faith by leading The U's into the Football League via the Conference play-off final in 2010.

Smith, who was on United's books as a youngster, and Wilder remained close and the Blades chief paid tribute to Smith today, describing him as "a great man".

"I will always be grateful for Jim's input in getting the job at Oxford," Wilder told the Oxford Mail.

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"To be given the opportunity I was as a young manager by him and Kelvin [Thomas, former U's chairman] – I will always be indebted to be given that chance.

"The connection between the three of us was huge and obviously we enjoyed success together."

United released a statement yesterday expressing their sympathy with Smith's family.

"Jim was just a great man," Wilder added.

Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

"I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with him and learnt some valuable lessons in both football management and man management.

"It frustrates me when people say he was an old school manager – he wasn't at all. He was just a top manager.

"He knew the game inside out, was tactically so astute and knew how to deal with players."

He added: "He was blunt and to the point, but people respected him for that.

Jim Smith in his Derby County days

"When I went to some LMA dinners with him, it was a real eye-opener as to the regard he was held within the game.

"He, (wife) Yvonne and their family were so good to me when I came to Oxford, I will always be grateful for everything he did for me."

United's own tribute added: “He famously had a framed picture of Bramall Lane on his office wall and was good friends with the late, great Alan Hodgkinson.

“The thoughts of all at Bramall Lane are with Jim's family at this sad time.”