Alan Biggs: What's stopping Sheffield United's manager Chris wilder making the Premier League?

Plain old Anglo Saxon names are not the dish of choice in the Premier League. But could it be that the bread and butter British boss can get himself back on the menu?

Thursday, 23rd March 2017, 11:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:03 am
Chris Wilder celebrates at Oxford

Two divisions down is a long way from that top table. Chris Wilder has always known he would have to work his way up there. At Bramall Lane he is driving a vehicle of sufficient size to take him all the way.

That’s why this column does not share the apprehensions of some Sheffield United fans when attractive jobs come up, as several have recently. Norwich, Derby etc. You’d expect Wilder to be suitably rewarded when, rather than if, promotion is won and rightly so because personal affinity should never be taken for granted.

Here is an English manager showing what the right sort of apprenticeship can do. And “bread and butter” undercooks it.

Look at other examples to which young British managers and coaches can aspire. They may be at bread and butter clubs by top flight standards but Tony Pulis (West Brom), Mark Hughes (Stoke), Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) and Sean Dyche (Burnley) are worthy of Michelin stars if we take the metaphor further. Success is relative. All are over-achieving and have been doing so for a considerable time.

Wilder can say the same across 15 years in management, working up from the bottom to the imminent peak of two successive promotions, nay championships, in Leagues Two and One. Looking back up the scale, Paul Clement (Swansea) and Craig Shakespeare (Leicester) are striking further blows on the home front.

Shouldn’t the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool take note of what really is pound-for-pound success and consider that maybe the same principles can, and should, apply to them also?

As one of Wilder’s key aides, Paul Mitchell, United’s head of recruitment, remarked to me recently: “With a bit of luck, Chris could go all the way, he really could. The only thing holding him back could be that he’s British and they don’t seem to get those top jobs.”

But that works in the Blades favour, of course. For all his standing, you really can’t envisage Wilder getting one of those irresistible job offers. Better ones in current status maybe, better paid also perhaps, but not one that says: “You’ve got to take this, it may never come again.”

For Wilder, United was THAT one. He’s in for the long haul as one of those who can, over time, change the perception of the domestic manager. It should also be noted that, bucking the unfair stereotype, he is currently doing so in highly entertaining fashion.

Allowing that United are obviously top end financially for the third tier (while being far from extravagant), their football is not only effective, it has been a delight. Inter-passing at high tempo, underpinned by a pressing game on the opposition high up the pitch.

It shouldn’t just be the non-elite who notice such things, but Blades fans can be glad that it is. For now.