At the start of this season one of my predictions was Sheffield United to be relegated from the Premier League. At first sight that may have surprised some people after their brilliant exploits last season when they finished ninth. United are managed of course by Chris Wilder and he has brought them unparalleled success in his time there and now is the time he himself needs support from his employers.
When Chris was offered the manager’s job at Charlton by former owner Roland Duchatelet we spoke at some length about the opportunity.
I really hope that the current speculation around his future proves to be unfounded and that the Sheffield board keep faith with him. He deserves no less for the job he has done at Bramall Lane, and he hasn’t become a bad manager overnight. He has only really tasted success in his career so a blip at some stage was inevitable. Chris began his career in management at Alfreton Town. He took over at the club in late October 2001 and in the 6 months he was in charge he won four trophies. From there he went to Halifax Town and then on to Oxford United. He took Oxford back into the Football League and from there he moved to Northampton Town with whom he won the League Two title. In May 2016 he took over Sheffield United who were at the bottom of League One. He took them to the League One title and in 2019 he took them into the Premier League – a fantastic achievement by anyone’s standards.
The gap between the Premier League and The Football League Championship is significant and to stay up you need a number of things to happen. As is the case with Leeds United you need to go up with a nucleus of quality players. You need a manager that has the tactical and organisational skills to compete with some of the very best coaches in world football. Added to both of these you need a real work ethic in the team and a desire to compete for every ball in every match.
Sometimes as in the case of Sheffield United that desire and commitment can carry you a long way and it did so last season. Often on the back of that players are rewarded with new contracts at the expense of bringing in new players. The level of commitment shown in the first season can then drop off a bit and if you throw in a few injuries to the mix the problems start. From afar that is what I saw at United and that influenced my pre-season prediction.
After Charlton’s relegation from the Premier League in 1999 there was never any doubt in our minds that Alan Curbishley would remain our manager and look what he went on to achieve. Charlton were never in a relegation battle.
It is easy to back the manager when things are going well but the test is when you are not doing well. Sheffield need to accept their fate this season, but Wilder will have learnt an awful lot and that experience as it did with Alan will only benefit United and they will come back stronger. United have lost 11 games by a single goal so they haven’t stopped competing for sure.
If the Sheffield board need any examples take a look at Norwich City who are a well-run club who have shown loyalty to Daniel Farke and will I am sure reap the rewards of that come next May.
Peter Varney – Integral Sports Management.
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