Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder fires back in war of words about transfers
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has defended his track record in the transfer market following criticism of the club’s recruitment strategy since reaching the Premier League.
Speaking ahead of the game against Southampton, Wilder used United’s pre-match media conference to confront accusations that a failure to attract proven top-flight performers to South Yorkshire is behind United’s slide to the foot of the table.
Although his words were, at first glance, a response to recent criticism from several well-known pundits, Wilder’s decision to tackle the issue head on could also be interpreted as a shot across the bows of Bramall Lane’s board amid reports they want to appoint a director of football against the 53-year-old wishes.
Earlier this week Wilder, who has twice led United to promotion since taking charge five years ago, suggested his position could become untenable unless their owners adhere to the recovery plan he wants to implement if relegation is confirmed.
“I’ve maintained all along, the boys who aren’t in the eleven every week are often the most important,” Wilder said. “Martin Cranie in the Championship, an absolute lunatic but brilliant lad who didn’t play all the time but was so important in that.
“The same goes for Gaz Madine, another brilliant lad to work with that season, who everyone through ‘What is the manager doing bringing him in?’ Scott Hogan, who scored some vital goals for us that season and going even further back to James Hanson and Jay O’Shea in League One.
“We get unfairly criticised for our recruitment at times and yes, you don’t get them all right. But by and large, I think we’ve done really well.”
Despite Wilder’s confidence in his own track record, HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who seized control of United in 2019, recently admitted doubts about the quality of some new arrivals had influenced his decision to put a block on any business during the mid-season window. As a result, United are preparing to face Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side with only two fit centre-halves at their disposal, despite playing a 3-5-2 formation.
“I’ve spoke what I spoke about,” Wilder said, responding to questions about his relationship with the Saudi Arabian. “I should imagine the powers-that-be understand.”