Sheffield United have surpassed all expectations so far this season. Many were tipping them as favourites for relegation. A side full of players Championship quality at best, some playing in League 1 only 3 years ago. But Chris Wilder has proved everyone wrong AGAIN. They sit in 6th place ahead of Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham. Incredible achievement by the boyhood Blades fan and former player.
It’s a not case of beginners luck with Wilder. Quite the opposite. He’s a hardworking, old school British manager that plays entertaining and effective football. Knicking a 1-0 win against Arsenal, holding Chelsea and Manchester United to a draw, giving European Champions Liverpool their toughest game this season. Bramall Lane is a fortress and this man is the reason behind that.
Starting from the bottom
The United manager is a football league veteran. Spending most of his career in the EFL, he spent 7 years in non-league, managing Alfreton and Halifax town. Wilder started from the bottom and worked his way up to the very top. Where he began building his reputation as a tactically smart and serial promotion winner was Oxford United.
In the Conference at the time, he took the side to the Football League in just his second season in charge. The former right back ensured the Us stayed comfortably in the EFL in his next 3 years. But this wasn’t enough for the ambitious manager. He wanted to climb up the divisions and left for Northampton in 2014.
A January appointment with the side in relegation zone, Wilder kept the side in the Football League. Mid table next season were the expectations by many. But not Wilder. The following 2015/16 season, he took them up to League 1 as Champions. 99 points. The miracle man’s stock was rising and his elite mentality was showing.
It was a dream come true for Wilder in 2016, as he joined Sheffield United as their manager. 93 appearances for them as a player, now he was in dugout as their gaffer. He started off poorly with just 1 point from his first 4 games. Was this a step too far for Wilder? Not at all. From then on, Sheffield United were unstoppable. The Englishman in true fairy tale fashion, took his side up to the Championship as Champions. 100 points this time. Wilder was rising to prominence and was only just getting started.
A respectable 10th place finish in their return to the second tier for Blades. The tide was certainly turning in Steel City though, with signs United were surpassing Wednesday. But mid table was never enough for Chris Wilder. It showed in 2018/19.
The odds were completely against Sheffield United. Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa looked outstanding. West Brom looked certain to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Aston Villa were under an experienced Dean Smith. Frank Lampard’s Derby had something about them. Everyone turned a blind eye to the EFL veteran. But he worked his magic once again.
The Blades were promoted to the promise land automatically as runners up. It was a miraculous achievement. A squad working on a tight League 1 budget just 2 seasons before with no star players had reached the Premier League. Chris Wilder had done it and made a name for himself. From non-league all the way to the big time. But he’s no where near finished yet!
Chris Wilder is not finished yet…
Could Sheffield United do the unthinkable and achieve European football? Nothing is impossible with this man at the helm. He’s worked tirelessly to reach the top and, despite the doubters, HIS club look set to stay there.
It’s easy to forget the players he has aren’t world class, aren’t proven Premier League quality. In fact, a lot of them are hardly Championship level. That’s a testament to Chris Wilder’s tactical prowess, something that has been underestimated by so many teams this season.
Look at Lys Mousset. A squad player hardly getting a look in at Bournemouth. He’s got 4 goals and 3 assists in 10 games in Sheffield. The Chris Wilder effect. His ability to work on a low budget and instil this fighting mentality into the players he has to work with, is truly outstanding.
The brand of football too is brilliant. High press, energetic, physical in the middle and full of heart. The players put 110% in every game and it’s paying its dividends. People laugh when Everton and West Ham are linked with him. Both those clubs are in disarray and under the Blades manager, I reckon they could be brilliant. He doesn’t need the hundreds of millions spent by Marco Silva and Manuel Pellegrini.
“I’m not going to applaud, credit or reward the players because they run around. Whatever the supporters do after is up to them but for me it’s a normal, natural thing to do and if they don’t they won’t play.”Chris Wilder after narrow defeat to a strong Leicester side
Put some respect on Chris Wilder’s name, one of the league’s most underrated managers. I’m glad his hard work is paying off and he’s getting the credit he deserves.
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