AFTER securing his place in Sheffield United history by leading the club to a historic promotion last season, the tantalising prospect of being the man who leads the Blades back to the Premier League lies ahead of Chris Wilder.
The Blades chief’s star has never been higher ahead of the club’s return to Championship business after six seasons of purgatory in League One.
Those walking the corridors of power at rival clubs have understandably cast some glances in his direction.
According to some reports, Sunderland were keen on potentially prising away Wilder to fill their vacant managerial berth.
But for Wilder, there is clearly only one team in red and white stripes that stirs his blood.
Wilder’s stock among Blades fans is sky-high, while the club’s hierarchy have moved to show how much they value the 49-year-old by tabling him a new, improved deal, which has been agreed in principle and will be ratified shortly.
To a streetwise manager who is conscious that results are the be-all and end-all, his immediate aim is consolidating in the Championship.
But for the ambitious Yorkshireman, the ultimate aspiration is managing in the big time – ideally with his boyhood favourites.
On verbally agreeing a new deal, Wilder, whose current contract was scheduled to expire in 2019, said: “It obviously has to go through a process of going in front of the board.
“But I have had talks with the chief executive, who has been great. It was something I always thought would get done.
“There has been a bit of negotiation and I can totally understand that. But it was never a case of me going to them.
“I know some managers play the game and go banging on the chairman’s door if they have won four games on the bounce.
“But I am comfortable with the people I work with and, fair play to them, that is what they did (approached him).
“If you work for a club that has got good owners and they treat people in the right way then, if they want to extend my contract, I am obviously going to do that. It was never going to be the other way around, with me looking for an extension or whatever.
“I am loyal to every owner I have worked for. Let’s be right, there are head-turning moves. One of the things the club has done is cover themselves as well. They have covered themselves in terms of compensation for my services.
“This is my club and I am ambitious. I want to work at the highest level. Why wouldn’t I? My players are the same. But can I realise those ambitions here? Absolutely.”
The pressing business is what Wilder is currently addressing, as he seeks to augment his squad ahead of the club’s first second-tier campaign in seven seasons, which starts at home to Brentford on August 5.
So far this summer, Ched Evans, Nathan Thomas, Enda Stevens and George Baldock have been brought in to boost the club’s options, with bids also on the table for Southend United midfielder Ryan Leonard and Charlton Athletic forward Ricky Holmes.
The Blades’ interest in the pair has been well-documented and, while remaining hopeful of landing both players, Wilder has contingencies in place if those deals do not materalise while also retaining confidence in his current squad options.
Believing that the end game is potentially approaching regarding his club’s moves for Leonard and Holmes, he said: “We have got bids out there.
“Some negotiations go straight through and some take a bit of time. But I think we are in a strong position and we have got a good group.
“We are in for a couple, but there are players beneath them if we do not get others over the line.
“We are still negotiating. It goes back and forth, but it will not go on forever.
“Players want it sorting out, managers want it sorting out and everyone else involved in the process wants it sorting out, too.”
As for other targets, Wilder has revealed that he has made contact with Wolves regarding a renewed move for former loan centre-back Ethan Ebanks-Landell, who enjoyed a strong loan spell at Bramall Lane last season and proved a hugely popular figure with supporters.
The 24-year-old is thought to be well down the pecking order at Molineux and a pathway could yet be cleared for him to return to South Yorkshire.
Wilder added: “They have had a change of manager and brought a couple of players in. Centre-half is a big position for us.
“We have made contact with Wolves. Numbers get banded around at this stage, but it is when players come back for training proper when I think things start to happen.
“I believe he’s available and we have made an enquiry. We have asked the question.
“Like anything else, they are waiting to see so it is not guaranteed or concrete that he is available. But they have brought a couple of centre-halves in. It is an on-going thing.”