Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder explains what he wants his Bramall Lane legacy to be
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has sought to reassure supporters of his motives after indicating he could be forced to leave the club unless its hierarchy adheres to the recovery plan he has devised following a troubled season at Bramall Lane.
Despite ending a three match losing run by beating Aston Villa on Wednesday night, United began their preparations for this weekend’s game against Southampton at the bottom of the Premier League table and 12 points adrift of safety.
The build-up to the meeting with Dean Smith’s side was dominated by Wilder’s refusal to offer any guarantees about his future during a pre-match media briefing with journalists. Alluding to apparent differences over transfer and recruitment policy between himself and the board of directors, the 53-year-old admitted he didn’t know if he would remain in charge next term but stressed he wanted to stay providing “we stick to the plan.” That, from Wilder’s perspective, revolves around keeping the squad he has developed since taking charge in 2016 intact and strengthening a number of key positions including the midfield and central defence, where injuries and suspension mean Kean Bryan and the on-loan Ethan Ampadu are the only two choices available for Saturday’s fixture.
“I just want this club to prosper and be better,” Wilder said. “I want people to look back on these times in the future and think ‘We really enjoyed that.’
“We have moved it from 11th place in League One when we first came in. We have a history of being a Championship club, of jumping into the Premier League for a bit and then jumping out, other than when Harry (Dave Bassett) was in charge those years ago. So we have got to try and maximise this situation as best we can, and be in the best possible position to bounce back if that’s what’s needed and stay for a long time.”
By referencing United’s climb from the third to the first tier of English football under his stewardship - after being promoted in 2019, they challenged for a place in Europe last term - Wilder was attempting to remind fans that he knows what is required to lead them back to the highest level if relegation is confirmed. HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mus’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, United’s owner, has yet to elaborate on his strategy over the summer but did state before Christmas he wanted to retain Wilder’s services if, as seemed likely even then, United go down.
“There’s always another chapter,” Wilder, a lifelong United fan and former player himself, said. “It’s my responsibility to try and put the club in the best position possible with what I can do and can control.
“Then, when I do leave which will happen one day, I can come back, walk from my house, have a pint here and a pint there, discuss it with people and have them look back and think ‘Those times were great.’”
“Cards on the table,” he continued, “That’s all I want. I want to enjoy this period which I have. And I want people in the future, when I’m teeing off at Hallamshire Golf Club, to think ‘He did alright for this club. He did well.”