Chris Wilder admits ‘it hurts’ to see his struggling Sheffield United side bottom of the Premier League… but insists: ‘I think I am a better manager now than I’ve ever been’
- Sheffield United take on Leicester on Sunday and are bottom of the league table
- Chris Wilder was hailed as a genius last season but his team are now struggling
- The 53-year-old has admitted his disappointment with his boyhood club’s woes
- But Wilder also insisted he believes he is now a better manager than ever before
Having been hailed as a genius last season, Chris Wilder currently sits bottom of the Premier League with his Sheffield United having taken only one point from 10 matches.
It’s a dramatic fall from grace for everyone’s favourite manager when Sheffield United beat Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal and challenged for Europe before finishing ninth.
‘Mr Beer and Mr Wine,’ quipped Wilder when asked how he is coping with the difficult situation Blades find themselves in ahead of Sunday’s home game against Leicester.
Chris Wilder has admitted difficulty at seeing his Sheffield United side struggle this season
On a serious note, the 53-year-old who came up the hard way via Alfreton, Halifax, Oxford and Northampton hasn’t lost any of his self-belief despite tougher times.
‘We all like the compliments but I never got too above my station last season. When I heard some of the nice things said, I’d shake my head and thought “not really”. I’m just the boy from Sheffield who has worked hard and got good players and staff around him.
‘You have take these bits and pieces as well. I’m not precious or arrogant enough think I’m not going to get it. That is the sort of snakes and ladders of football management. I think I am a better manager now than I’ve ever been.
The Blades are currently bottom of the Premier League and next take on Leicester on Sunday
‘Now the skill of it is to change it round and put it in the right direction which I’m fully up for that challenge.’
The irony of Sheffield’s plight is they’ve turned in some good performances. Seven of their nine defeats have been by only one goal and they were the better team at Anfield in October when they were pipped 2-1 having taken the lead.
The problem is goals. Scotland striker Oli McBurnie hasn’t scored in 14 Premier League games and £23million buy Rhian Brewster is looking to get off the mark following his move from Liverpool. Lys Mousset will be a welcome return on Sunday from injury.
Wilder, who joined United in 2016 after they’d just finished 11th in League One, has been known to dish out home truths but right now sees encouragement as the best medicine.
Sheffield United have turned in good performances but typically fail to score enough goals
‘We’ve got to keep spirits high and positive. As you can imagine with the connection I have with this club (he was a boyhood Sheffield United fan and former player), it’s probably the hardest period I have been through in my managerial career. It hurts to see that league table.
‘You have to get yourself up and going. You’re speaking to players who have been fabulous. They have swum the channel to get this club into the position we are and there’s no point smashing them now and bashing them over the head.
‘We want to stay here. We have to cajole and squeeze the pips out of it.’
Asked how he keeps his own spirits high, Wilder replies immediately: ‘Mr Beer and Mr Wine and the missus and the family!
Wilder joked he has turned to ‘Mr Beer’ to keep his spirits high at the helm of his boyhood club
‘They understand the life and times of a professional manager isn’t all rosy. You have to go through these periods. That’s part of the game and we all understand that.’
Other managers, past and present, have checked in on Wilder this week to offer support. Besides results, he has also become embroiled in a verbal spat with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. Wilder has been one of the managers who wants to keep the current Premier League rule of three subs per team.
Sheffield is in tier three and won’t be allowed fans in to see the Leicester game. Their players can’t even go out for a meal together to bond and relax outside the football bubble.
The 53-year-old has not lost his self belief but shared frustration at not being able to ‘get away’
Wilder admits: ‘You can’t get away from it. What else is there? I’m a Celebrity? Nah, not for me.
‘I like a bit of Gogglebox – but it always comes back to football with me.’
Wilder was warned about second-season syndrome by close pals in the game before it kicked off. He wasn’t sure what they meant at the time – but does now, particularly with fixtures coming thick and fast.
‘If we do manage to pull it round, it would be right up there if not eclipse everything that has happened in the last few years at Sheffield United.
Wilder was warned about second-season syndrome and the fixtures are coming thick and fast
‘I have had some fabulous support from people in the game. It’s humbling when they take time out when they don’t have to, even a couple of fellow managers in and around our position.
‘We have deserved that sort of respect because of the way we have handled ourselves and gone about our business. I am thankful of it but we need points on the board and that’s the biggest thing.
‘Hopefully when we’ve turned it around in four or five months time, then I will return their calls and thank them very much.’