Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder finds a new friend in latest war of words

Sheffield United have found an ally in their battle to prevent the Premier League’s leading teams forcing the reintroduction of the five substitute rule after Slaven Bilic, the West Bromwich Albion manager, insisted Chris Wilder is right to oppose the move.

Sunday, 29th November 2020, 4:59 pm

Speaking after his team’s victory over United at The Hawthorns, a result which extended the visitors’ winless run to 10 games, Bilic leapt to Wilder’s defence after Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, one of the driving forces behind the proposal, labelled the 53-year-old as “selfish” for blocking the measure.

Wilder believes increasing the number of changes clubs are allowed to make would tip the balance of competition even further in favour of the division’s powerhouse names, disputing arguments that resisting the measure, which was temporarily imposed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, is a threat to player welfare.

“Chris isn’t selfish in a bad way, only in the way that we are all selfish,” Bilic said, “Because we all look after our own clubs. So Jurgen is selfish in that sense and so am I.”

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Slaven Bilic, Manager of West Bromwich Albion, reacts during Saturday's game against Sheffield United: Jason Cairnduff - Pool/Getty Images

Although the difference of opinion between Wilder and Klopp has been seized upon by some as a sign their friendship has deteriorated, in truth it only reflects the competitive instincts of two men battling it out at opposite ends of the table rather than shining a light on their relationship away from the touchline.

United remained at the foot of the table after Conor Gallagher’s first half effort ended West Brom’s wait for their first league victory of the season.

“We all want to protect the players,” Bilic said. “Chris wants to protect them, and look after the welfare of the players because this is the paradox - he can’t afford injuries and can afford them even less than some others. But when he puts it on the scale, he sees that three subs is better for his team.

"We all want what is best for our clubs and our players, and we all fight for that. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s only normal from my point of view and as a far as I see it.”

Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder doesn't want five subs: Jason Cairnduff/Pool via AP

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (centre) watches his team warm up: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire.