By Louis Hobbs
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder, may only be in his second year in charge at the South Yorkshire based club. However, in the eyes of many fans, due to his accomplishments he is already going down as one of the club’s legends.
Wilder may have brought a fast-paced attacking style of football to Bramall Lane, that so far has only reeked rewards. But is it too early to be putting him under the same limelight as former managers and respective club icons Neil Warnock and Dave Bassett?
Wilder’s story so far…
In his first year of management at Bramall Lane, the Sheffield-born manager guided the Blades into a season of domination. Emphatically winning the League One title, his side trounced the rest of the division, alongside accumulating an outstanding 100 points.
Additionally, his achievements haven’t stopped there. In United’s return to the Championship after six years down in League One, Wilder has took the division by storm, ushering his team into a promotion fight to get into the Premier League, opposed to a relegation battle which was predicted at the beginning of the campaign. Plus, with the Blades currently sitting only two points behind a playoff spot, the unthinkable double promotions is still very much on the cards.
But how does he compare to previous successful managers?
Despite being considered Sheffield United’s greatest manager by many, the start to Dave Bassett’s career at Sheffield United was far from amazing. After a short-lived reign at Watford, Bassett was recruited to help the Blades avoid relegation to the third division of English football in the 1987/88 campaign. Unfortunately, he was unable to prevent the weak Blades team from sliding down a division, after losing a two-legged playoff against Bristol City.
— Sheffield Latest (@sheffieldlatest) February 20, 2017
Nonetheless, Bassett’s career at Bramall Lane only went uphill from then on. Winning back-to-back division titles, which guided the Blades back into England’s first division for the 1990/91 season. The former defensive midfielder was able to bring top-flight football back to Bramall Lane for the first time since the 1970s. Most importantly, Bassett was the manager who signed a young Chris Wilder from Southampton to Sheffield United, and played a huge part in developing his footballing and management skills.
When asked about Bassett’s reign in charge, and how he compares to current boss Wilder, lifelong Blade, and season-ticket holder during the Bassett era, Craig Ladson, replied: “The best thing about watching United under Bassett was the excited feeling everyone got before every match, and it’s the same feeling under Wilder, because it doesn’t matter who’s the opponent, we know we’ve got a chance.”
“Bassett’s football wasn’t as positive and attack-minded as Wilder sets out the team now, but still he’d play two strikers, two wingers every fixture, and make sure the ball got into the oppositions box as soon as possible. We were the big teams’ worst nightmare.”
Additionally, fan of the club, and ex-professional footballer under Bassett, Kevin Gage, added: “He was a very influential manager. His record speaks for itself, and he had this amazing ability to make people want to play for him no matter what.”
“I played under him at Wimbledon and United, and he never changed. He was always a massive character who didn’t let you get away with anything. Although he could always find a way to motivate a big group and get everyone fighting for each other – very similar to our current manager, I think Chris Wilder has learned a lot from him.”
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More recently than Bassett, former boss Neil Warnock is also regarded as one of Sheffield United’s most influential managers. Warnock was appointed in 1999 and spent his first seven years in charge in England’s second tier. Despite this, he still managed to lead his side to the FA cup, and league cup semi-finals, losing to Liverpool and Arsenal, respectively.
The red and white wizards were eventually promoted to the Premier League as runners-up in the 2005/06, which gave Warnock his first chance to shine as a top-tier manager. The blades performed well in their expected relegation battle, and for a long time looked to be heading for survival. However, a turning point in the season occurred with questionable victories for United’s relegation rivals West Ham United, on the final day of the season, condemned Warnock, and his team to relegation.
— Football Memories (@footballmemorys) May 14, 2014
Subsequently, Sheffield United fan, Gill Wild compared Wilder to Warnock by saying: “Warnock’s football was a lot more direct than what it’s like now, but that only added to the excitement. Warnock’s character and enthusiasm added a lot to our game, there was no hiding his passion and commitment, which I see in Wilder today. I would have loved to have seen more of Warnock as I think he cut himself short, but under Wilder we can only get better.”
To summarise his opinion on how far Wilder has come since taking the United managerial job in 2016, Gage stated: “It’s actually unbelievable how good the Blades are under Chris. Not just the results, but the amount the lads have achieved, and the standard of football has just been superb. Since I’ve packed my boots in, it’s the best football I’ve seen at the Lane, and that includes the Premier League days under Neil Warnock.”