When Sheffield United made their way to the English Premier League, the experts began questioning what chance the Yorkshire club had of surviving beyond a single season in the world’s toughest football league. What the pundits did not bargain for was the fighting spirit head coach Chris Wilder has instilled at Bramall Lane over the last three seasons that has given the manager a win percentage over 50 percent.
In an era when the fashion in the Premier League and Championship is to import foreign coaches from some of the most famous European and South American footballing nations, Wilder is a throwback. A lifelong Blades fan, Wilder played for the club as a right-back before playing in the lower leagues of English football throughout the 1990s. After a managerial career that took in clubs such as Alfreton Town and Oxford United, Wilder replaced Nigel Adkins as the manager of Sheffield United with the club languishing in League One.
Upon arriving at Bramall Lane, Chris Wilder believed his biggest task was to unite a divided club where the players and fans did not see eye to eye. Making Billy Sharp the club captain was seen by the coach as key to bringing the club together in a way similar to that of his former Blades coach Dave Bassett. Making it to the Premier League at the expense of the coaching legend Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United and new Chelsea boss Frank Lampard’s Derby County shows the hurdles Wilder is still overcoming on a regular basis.
What would be a mistake would be to underestimate the skills of Wilder as a coach, particularly after his invention of the overlapping center-back. Former Blackpool center-back Chris Basham has become a marauding attacking force with Irish international defender John Egan shoring up the defense as the back three tried to attack. The first home game of the English Premier League season for the Blades was a victory against Crystal Palace who seemed unable to cope with the tactical positioning of United.
Chris Wilder has managed to push a group of journeymen players and professionals who had earlier failed to make it to the top table of English football to become a feared force. John Lundstram’s lone strike against Palace allowed the Yorkshire club to rise to eighth in the League above names such as Newcastle United who have a long history in the league.
What Chris Wilder is most proud of is the lack of spending on the part of his club with all the players starting the game against Crystal Palace having played in the previous Championship season for the Blades. No matter how the remainder of the English Premier League season plays out for Sheffield United, Chris Wilder has secured his place in the hall of fame for the Bramall Lane club.
The initial dream of Chris Wilder has been fulfilled in taking the Blades to the Premier League with the innovative coach the latest English manager to arrive in the top division alongside fellow former professional Graham Potter as they attempt to change the view of the traditional English coach.