Chris Wilder and Sheffield United board at odds over January transfer window recruitment strategy

Chris Wilder says he and his Sheffield United players will “keep punching” despite the disappointment of a transfer window where he was not allowed to add to his squad.

Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield United (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)
Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield United (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)

The group of players who welcome Chelsea to Bramall Lane tomorrow night will be the same which started the year after manager Wilder’s plans to add a midfielder and a left-sided centre-back failed to come to fruition.

Typically of his tell-it-like-it-is mentality, Wilder was quite happy to admit he disagreed with the board’s failure to sanction recruits, but insisted he has no plans to dwell on it. The only issue, he says, is if he ever has a signing imposed on him, and that has never happened at Bramall Lane.

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“I put my recommendation to the board regarding strengthening in January with a couple of deals that I believe would have helped us,” he said. “As much as I respect other people’s opinion I think people should respect mine, which was to bring a couple of players in. But the owner makes the decisions at a football club and he has to carry that burden and responsibility to do the best for the football club and I respect the decisions made.

Chris Wilder during a Premier League match at Bramall Lane (Picture: Andrew Yates/Sportimage)

“It’s football, there are disappointments all along – for players, when you don’t get results, when you get relegated. We’re all happy to take the promotions, the wins and the plaudits and we all have to take the other bit.

“I’m not just going to say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a great decision,’ and the owner’s going to say, ‘That’s the decision we’ve made for the benefit of the football club.’

“I’ll get on with it. I’m a big boy and the players are big boys and we move on quickly.

“We’ve not been in the Champions League for the last 20 years with world-class players, winning cups here, there and everywhere. We all know what this club’s been built on. It’s all right, it’s fine. I’m cracking on. I’m not changing.

“I’m in it and we’re punching. The players will keep doing that because that’s what they have to do and what I have to do, regardless of the decisions that are made.

“I demand it, I don’t ask. I don’t say, ‘Can you please,’ this is how it is and they have to go right to the end of the season. We have that obligation and responsibility to the supporters.”

In fairness to owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, he sanctioned the club’s transfer record being broken six times in the previous three windows, and has to be wary of the cost of relegation which for all the recent improvement of three wins in the last five league matches remains the most likely outcome with the Blades 11 points adrift of safety this morning. A global pandemic only makes the financial situation tougher.

But there has been none of the interference at some other clubs where chairmen seem to fancy themselves as directors of football.

“I’ve never been put under any pressure to sign a player,” stressed Wilder. “I think everybody knows if I was, that would be me done. But I’ve got to say I’ve never been put under that pressure and I respect that because it happens at other clubs. It won’t happen to me here.

“Not just me, but a lot of people have changed the direction of this football club after six years in League One.

“Quite a few people had a go at it and we managed to find something that was a good fit between what we were trying to do and what the supporters wanted to see.

“I’m not sat here saying every signing’s absolutely nailed it. You can’t always get it right but we’ve turned a lot of players over because of the speed of the journey and we find ourselves in the Premier League.

“We’ve invested well over the last four windows and you look at the pain some Championship clubs have gone through and what they’ve had to do to try and get into the Premier League and I think it counts as success.”

If West Bromwich Albion fail to win at Tottenham Hotspur in tomorrow’s early kick-off, the Blades will have the chance to move off the bottom of the Premier League table for the first time since it took on any meaning.

If that seems unlikely with Thomas Tuchel having given Chelsea a new solidity in his first three matches in charge, the Blues’ last trip to South Yorkshire ended in a 3-0 defeat in July.

Football previews: Pages 2-4.

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