It might have cost him a Christmas card from Coventry City’s owners but, as the battle for the heart and soul of this once proud club continues, Chris Wilder was last night happy to reveal where his allegiance lies.
“You don’t want to see a team plagued by off-the-field problems,” he said. “Problems that are not the fault or doing of proper football people. Problems that are because of mismanagement, because of people who maybe don’t understand the game. When they occur, the people who suffer are the players, the staff and most importantly the supporters. I know because I’ve had it myself.”
Wilder takes no pleasure from City’s predicament but tomorrow, when Sheffield United visit the Ricoh Arena, his sympathy will only stretch so far. The 49-year-old’s side enter the match third in the table and three points behind leaders Scunthorpe. City are 21st and, as their followers continue to protest against owners SISU, engulfed by civil war.
“What’s happening down there is a shame for everyone connected with that famous old football club,” Wilder, the United manager, continued. “But no one was caring about me when we didn’t win in four (league) games at the start of the season. My focus is on us and only us. Making sure we play to our strengths.”
United have won 14 and drawn five of their previous 22 outings since making a chequered start to the new campaign. City slipped to a fifth straight league defeat when they were beaten by Southend last weekend but, as Wilder acknowledged, fortunes can quickly change.
“There has to be winners and there has to be losers. There has to be people who go through good periods and those who go through bad. It’s the business we are in. For me, though, it’s all about us and getting ourselves right. If we play to our ability then we’ve got a good chance of winning. But we won’t under-estimate them because that’s a very dangerous game to play. If we start looking ahead to Boxing Day or New Year then we’ll lose points.”
City, who beat United 3-1 in the corresponding fixture last season, were accused of “stinking the division out” by Micky Quinn yesterday. Quinn, who made over 60 appearances for the club during the early Nineties, also described his former employers as growing “rotten” under SISU’s stewardship.
Wilder, though, insisted City pose a huge threat to United’s chances of climbing back into the automatic promotion places.
“We’ve got to take everything else out of the equation and focus on the game,” he said. “They’ve got some talented footballers, even though they might not be getting the results at the moment. They’ll be looking at this as a ‘free hit’, as a springboard to get themselves up and running again. We’ve been on one good run and now we want to go on another. That has to be the aim.”