Sheffield United: Manager Chris Wilder in focus after first Premier League victory in 12 years over Crystal Palace
Sheffield United registered their first Premier League win in 12 years by beating Crystal Palace at a highly-charged Bramall Lane on Sunday.
Manager Chris Wilder guided the Blades from Sky Bet League One to the top flight in three years and in the process has reconnected the club with their fans. Here, PA’s Mark Walker takes a look at the Sheffielder’s achievements at his hometown club and why levels of optimism continue to soar.
Why is he ‘one of our own’?
Wilder was born in the Stocksbridge area of Sheffield and after the former Bramall Lane ball-boy failed to make the grade as a player at Southampton, he returned to his home city and forged a career with the Blades as a defender. He made over 100 league appearances in two spells for the club and more than 130 for Rotherham before stints with Notts County, Bradford, Brighton and Halifax. He is serenaded with chants of 'He's one of our own' at his beloved Bramall Lane.
Who did he win his first major promotion with?
Wilder, who took his first job as manager at Alfreton and then Halifax, steered Oxford back to the Football League via the Conference play-offs in 2010. After three successive mid-table finishes in League Two he resigned to take on the job at Northampton, who were bottom of the Football League when he arrived in early 2014. Wilder rescued the Cobblers from relegation and in his second full season they romped to the League Two title with 99 points.
When did he return to Bramall Lane?
After his success with Northampton, the Blades turned to Wilder in May 2016 following the sacking of Nigel Adkins. They stormed to promotion as League One champions in his first season in charge, with victory on the final day against Chesterfield securing them a club-record 100 points. After a 10th-placed finish in the Championship in 2018, Wilder's side showed a steely nerve to edge Leeds in the race for automatic promotion.
How will the Blades fare back in the Premier League?
Wilder has admitted he understands why the club are favourites "by a long way" to be relegated, but they have so far cocked a snook at their critics, taking four points from their first two games. The club announced a "significant" new sponsorship deal with financial broker Union Standard Group in the summer before rewarding their manger with a new three-year deal. They also broke their record transfer fee four times to draft in Luke Freeman, Callum Robinson, Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie among others - a clear indication of the board's faith in their manager.
What makes him such a good manager?
The straight-talking Yorkshireman, who has won promotion to all four of English football's top divisions, keeps his messages simple but sets the highest standards and expects complete commitment from his players. Uncompromising defending is the bedrock, but Wilder is a canny tactician, with the use of over-lapping centre-backs to overload the opposition last season proving highly effective. Old-fashioned team spirit is a prerequisite in Wilder's dressing room, but when it comes to modern-day strategy, he will not be left behind.