Alan Biggs: Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United approach ‘will get Blades into Championship play-offs’

Blades boss Chris Wilder
Blades boss Chris Wilder

Old school or new school? Probably a bit of both.

This column has occasionally overlooked the part the appliance of modern scientific methods has played in the preparation of the Chris Wilder school of footballer.

But one powerful ingredient seems to have combined the two.

Train as you play. That’s been the Wilder mantra since he took charge of Sheffield United and there’s been no better demonstration of it than in the Blades

winning all seven pre-season friendlies and now the season’s first Championship league game to boot (written ahead of last night’s Walsall cup game).

Not that it’s entirely new. I recall Neil Warnock bringing out the shin pads in training sessions when he initially took charge of a mid-season rescue at Bramall Lane in 1999. And boy did it work.

But how many managers and coaches apply full-on demands to warm-up games? Don’t they, in the main, ease players up a gear and gently rotate their options in search of the team that picks itself?

It’s why I’ve learned over the years never to pay too much attention to friendly results. United this summer is an exception to that.

It’s also why even a former Owl has been insisting to me this week that the Blades will make the top six! Says Carlton Palmer: “I’ve got a lot of admiration for Chris Wilder and he’ll make the play-offs – definitely.

“He’s got momentum and a strong, confident, believing squad – in a division that has a much of a muchness.”

You have to salute the way Wilder and Alan Knill have refused to sacrifice that winning momentum; how the core players of last season’s triumphant team are still at the heart of this one; how new players are buying into the full-on philosophy; how having a few bob to spend (perhaps more than anyone lets on) has not changed the earthy values of the management team.

But also how manager and board seem to be alive to that strategic moment when they lift the bar on recruitment.

If the current rate of progress continues, it may be sooner than anyone imagined.