BARNSLEY manager Danny Wilson insists he will make his first return to former club Sheffield United since his controversial sacking in April 2013 with his head held high.
The Oakwell chief makes his first visit to Bramall Lane tomorrow since he was shown the door by the Blades with just five games of the regular 2012-13 season to go – with the club in fifth place in League One and six points behind second-placed Bournemouth, with two games in hand.
Wilson, who took the Blades to a Wembley play-off final at the end of his first season in charge in 2011-12, when they were beaten by Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town on penalties, is philosophical over what sort of reception he will receive from home fans.
The 54-year-old won over the majority of the Blades’ faithful despite his previous links at Sheffield Wednesday, with their haul of 90 points in finishing third in 2011-12 six more than third-tier champions Doncaster Rovers managed the following season.
Wilson, forced to work with a reduced playing budget with key players including Stephen Quinn, Matt Lowton and Nick Blackman all leaving, kept the Blades in promotion contention ahead of his shock axing – in a season which ended ignominiously in a play-off semi-final loss to Yeovil.
Despite the circumstances of his departure, Wilson says he is focused strictly on business with Barnsley tomorrow, having moved on from the events of 18 months ago.
On his unexpected departure from Bramall Lane, he said: “It happens, that is football. I have been long enough in the game to know that happens.
“It has gone, it is history.
“It is opinion, obviously I was not good enough. But I am big enough and old and wise enough to get on with it.
“I can walk in there with my head held high and I can leave there with my head held high.”
Questioned on what sort of reception he can expect, the Lancastrian added: “I have no idea. Like most clubs you go back to, you just don’t know.
“Whatever it will be, I will take it in my stride.
“The job I have got to do now is with Barnsley and going to get three points and they would expect me to say that. There is no other way to approach it.
“The fans have been very good to me (since). All the clubs I have been to as well; there is not one club I have left where I have thought, ‘Crikey, we should have done better and we had the opportunity to.’ I don’t think there will be many.
“I’ve always had good relationships with the fans, wherever I’ve been, and I hope that continues.”
Tomorrow is the Reds’ second derby in the space of just under three weeks and Wilson admits that Barnsley finishing as the leading Yorkshire side out of the four-strong White Rose contingent in League One, the others being the Blades, Bradford City and Doncaster, is an extra motivation for the club, who are planning on being in the promotion shake-up come the Spring.
He added: “We have not just this game, but other clubs in this area who we have to try and beat to climb up the league and be the pride of Yorkshire and be the top team in the Yorkshire area.
“The London clubs have this thing all the time in the league and we would love to be able to boast that.
“In our way are some very good teams. But I would like to think in a one-off game that we are very capable of beating anybody in this league.
“We were very close to beating the top of the league side last week and will give Sheffield United a very good run for their money as well.”
As it stands, the 15th-placed Reds, 10 points behind the in-form Blades, who are sixth, have plenty of work to do with Nigel Clough’s side seeking their fifth successive win in all competitions tomorrow, having just booked a place in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup.
Wilson admits he has been impressed by the job done by Clough, but perhaps more than anyone is entitled to vouch that success at Bramall Lane is gauged by the barometer of promotion.
He added: “Nigel has done very well and they are on a great run. They had a good cup run last year and now this year. But the bottom line is promotion, that is what the club will want and feel they should have and that is where they will be measured at the end of the season.
“If he goes to the end of the season and gets promoted, they will have had a great season.
“But there are some tough games to manoeuvre and the derby games bring out the best in this opposition as well and that is the added difficulty of having so many games in the locality.
“But it is up to them what they feel is success and from our point of view, we have to concentrate on ourselves and get three points which will make the league table a little bit easier to look at.”
Wilson is hoping to extend Fulham winger Ryan Williams’s loan spell, due to expire after tomorrow’s game, and is in dialogue with Manchester City regarding extending forward Devante Cole’s temporary stint, scheduled to end in January.
He said: “We think Ryan has done very well and he has seemed to enjoy it. He has giving a little bit of a different dimension to our game as well.
“He has slotted in very well and got better in every game he has played. He is a constant threat and works very hard.”