Chris Wilder: Five things we learned about the Sheffield United boss | Total Football News
Chris Wilder has earned two promotions as Sheffield United manager since his appointment in 2016Bus-stop beatings, forcing players to stay out late before games and pinning up unfair criticism in the changing room.Sheffield United's ...

Chris Wilder: Five things we learned about the Sheffield United boss

Chris Wilder has earned two promotions as Sheffield United manager since his appointment in 2016

Bus-stop beatings, forcing players to stay out late before games and pinning up unfair criticism in the changing room.

Sheffield United's success in their first season back in the English top flight is just the latest chapter in manager Chris Wilder's journey from non-league to Premier League.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's At Home With Colin Murray podcast, former Northampton, Oxford United and Halifax Town boss Wilder offered an insight into the man behind the stern pitchside stare.

Bus-stop beatings

"I went to the poshest school in Sheffield. I used to get beat up every morning," Wilder said with a laugh.

Born and raised in Sheffield as a Blades supporter, Wilder, now 52, played for his boyhood club in two spells - but not before a move to south London due to his father beginning a new job.

On his family's return to Sheffield, his parents' choice of school made things tricky - particularly on the morning commute.

"My dad had played with the careers master at one of the best schools in Sheffield. Because we lived in a not-so-great area, when we got back he wouldn't allow me to go to one of the local schools.

"I used to catch the bus at half seven in the morning because if I got the bus at eight o'clock I'd get turned over at the bus stop.

"It's quite funny because I started playing with a boy called Andy Morris who played at Chesterfield. He can look after himself and he went to one of the local schools so I think he put word around that I was one of his pals and they started leaving me alone after a year or so."

Experience at a price

Wilder, who recently signed a new deal until 2024 at Bramall Lane, realised from an early age that management would provide the natural next challenge in football once his playing days were over.

However, acting on that and leading training sessions for his mates' Sunday league sides in his early 20s proved more hazardous than first anticipated.

"I went to watch my pals when they were playing on a Sunday, that was when it started to crank up. If they were training on a Tuesday night I would go training with them," said Wilder.

"I'd sometimes take the sessions and I once broke my wrist doing so.

"I was playing in the old First Division at the time. It was towards the end of the season and we'd just secured safety.

"The next day the picture on the front of the Star said 'Sheffield United's Chris Wilder will miss Saturday's game after busting his wrist'. Meanwhile, all these lads knew that night I had been running around trying to score the winner with the boys.

"I loved the game. I wanted to stay in it. I loved the camaraderie and the changing-room atmosphere."

'Whoever stays out gets a game'

Early to bed and no alcohol the night before a game? Not on a Wilder team. Well, in the beginning at least.

A far cry from the expectations of today's Premier League stars, in his first job as a manager at non-league Bradway FC, Wilder and his assistant would jokingly tell players they had to stay out on a Friday night if they wanted to make Saturday's starting line-up.

"Me and my pal would have in our head who was playing and to make sure the boys stayed out with us we'd tell them if they went home early they'd not be playing tomorrow," said Wilder.

"Whoever stayed out got a game. You'd still be there by 9.30am on a Saturday to put the nets up. I loved it.

"We once started with nine men and a sub because our two best players were going to be 10 minutes late - the sub wasn't too happy about it. The late arrivals ran out of the car, quickly got their kit on and were straight out."

It's all part of Wilder's process of identifying the personalities he wants on his teams. Namely, players who want to be part of a group and who have "a bit about them".

"We weren't the most popular of teams, we had a run-in with a side who were all Wednesday fans and we were all United fans.

"When we won the league, I think we were 4-0 up in one of our last fixtures and we got one of the boys to put fireworks behind the goal.

"They were all watching on the other side and when the fourth went in all the fireworks started going off. But we didn't get round to an open-top bus."

'I'm angry and I'll never change'

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Those days may seem a million miles away for now Premier League boss Wilder, whose high-flying side occupy a Europa League spot after 26 of 38 league games.

In doing so, the Blades have smashed expectations and earned plenty of admirers along the way - in particular for their style of approach.

"There's a structure to it, in and out of possession, but there's a flexibility to allow players to show what they're about. There are different ways to win a game of football.

"The system has been talked about a lot but it's been evolved through hard work and having intelligent players and certain pillars we won't move from. We set the team up to go toe-to-toe and we're good value for money. People enjoy what we're about."

But how has he handled the increased scrutiny that accompanies life in the Premier League?

"Everything gets pinned up," joked Wilder. "We have a WhatsApp group of what's been said. There's a lot of noise and nonsense that gets chucked about.

"I think at times I'm quite angry and I want to fight my way out of corners. I'm sure I'll never change. We don't have the players that other teams have got but we have boys who want to track back, put a tackle in and stop a cross.

"You're in a bubble and you're just working for the next game. I'm still making the same journey to the training ground, seeing the same boys and going home to watch the TV. Nothing really changes.

"I'm still at the local boozer on a Saturday afternoon if we've not got a game to go to. I still love that part of my life."

'If it's good enough for Ferguson, it's good enough for me'

While Wilder has forged his own path with few favours, he has received advice throughout his managerial career from arguably the greatest manager in history.

Through connections at Oxford United including Alan Hodgkinson and Jim Rosenthal, Wilder found himself in "out of the blue" phone conversations with former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

"I knew a lot about him and his attitude to the game through Hodgkinson. We had some great phone calls. If we were playing up north and wanted to train at Carrington it was no problem. I speak to many managers in the game who he has helped out."

On the advice he's received from Ferguson, Wilder added: "There's a football aspect that you wouldn't believe. It's not technical or tactical, it's not really a mentality thing - it's another part of the game and every time I say it, people will say where did you get that from?

"If it's good enough for him it's certainly going to be good enough for me and my players.

"Legacy is really important to me, that I leave this place in a much better position than when I took over. I've wanted to do that every place I've worked.

"I want to come back and sit and watch this club and if it's still at the highest level I'd like to think I've played a part in the early development of that."

Listen to the podcast in full here.


This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/51418921