Chris Wilder’s frustration as boardroom battle blunts Sheffield United

Chris Wilder and Kevin McCabe
Chris Wilder and Kevin McCabe
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Chris Wilder has called for a swift end to Sheffield United’s tug-of-war ownership battle to prevent it impacting on the Blades’ summer rebuilding plans.

Joint owners HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosa’ad Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kevin McCabe have been in talks about a buyout at Bramall Lane for several months.

The duo each own a 50 per cent share in United after a deal was struck in 2013, including a clause that allowed the Saudi royal to buy out McCabe’s share.

In February, Prince Abdullah “served a notice exercising an option to purchase the remaining 50 per cent of Blades Leisure from Sheffield United Limited”.

But the deal hinged on the Prince agreeing to buy the freeholds of Bramall Lane stadium, plus the long leasehold interests in the Copthorne Hotel and Enterprise Centre, the club’s Shirecliffe Academy and development centre at Crookes.

With United’s ownership – and any possible outside investment – uncertain, Blades manager Wilder’s transfer plans are in limbo.

Prince Abdullah with Kevin McCabe (Pictures: SportImage)

Prince Abdullah with Kevin McCabe (Pictures: SportImage)

Wilder talked on Thursday of the “uncertainty” at Bramall Lane over what direction the club would take this summer.

With their play-off hopes fading this season, Wilder knows this summer’s work – both in player recruitment and off-the-field activities – will be key in challenging for promotion to the Premier League next year.

“I’ll be honest, there’s uncertainty,” said Wilder. “I’ve not had any direction on where we are going really.

“I don’t want to get too much into it. But obviously I’m a planner.

I have to plan because that’s what we’ve done since we walked through the door; medium and long-term. But there hasn’t been and there has to be. Pretty quickly as well, to give us a chance to get the maximum out of what we’re going to do for next year.

Chris Wilder

“I have to plan because that’s what we’ve done since we walked through the door; medium and long-term.

“But there hasn’t been and there has to be. Pretty quickly as well, to give us a chance to get the maximum out of what we’re going to do for next year.

“Everybody wants that solution. I should imagine both the owners do as well.

“I shouldn’t imagine they are particularly enjoying what is happening either.”

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

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

Wilder has kept the Blades in the promotion race all season – after winning the League One title last term – despite working on a shoestring budget.

United signed Ricky Holmes, Lee Evans and Ryan Leonard in the January transfer window –plus James Wilson on loan – but Wilder is keen to get his recruitment plans in place for the summer.

“We have to move the club forward, that is vital, that we don’t stand still and take backwards steps,” he said. “It’s a tough division, we all understand that. We want to improve and kick-on.

“For the benefit of everybody, not just me, it has to come to a conclusion, for us to move forward.

“Going forward, I just want to talk about football situations and be a football manager. Be 100 per cent committed to the club, improve the club and have that total focus going forward, everything else will take care of itself.

“A lot has been said about January, and we are having a review of the season now.

“You have to keep moving forward. There’s always targets, short, medium and long-term.

“Short-term it’s Saturday (against Preston) and then Bristol City. Medium and long-term it’s what’s happening in the next window and looking forward to the start of next season and beyond.

“With that, there has to be a plan, of course.

“One hundred per cent I have ideas on what we want. We look at the stats on how we play.

“We look at clean sheets, injuries, preparation, international breaks, everything. Even what is in the fridge in the manager’s office! Joking aside, we do.

“We look at: have we scored enough goals, have we signed too many players, everything we do we look into it. Goals from set-plays. The lot.

“I believe I can get us to where we want to be. I believe I know how to get there.”

United are five points adrift of the top six and must win their final two matches – at home to Preston North End on Saturday and away at Bristol City next week – and hope other results go their way to gatecrash the play-offs.

Their play-off hopes took a severe blow last weekend, with defeat at Birmingham City.

It was a result which frustrated Wilder, but the Blades boss thanked his players for helping to “pick me up” this week.

“It was a long and painful weekend,” he said. “But it’s back to work, and I have to say the players’ attitude this week has been outstanding.

“They picked me up, possibly more than I have had to pick them up. That’s good to see. They were hurting by the weekend.

“There were a few harsh comments by myself, maybe on reflection I need to take a little step back as they have given me everything.

“There’s a lot of traffic between us and Derby,” said Wilder. “But we are in touching distance of the play-offs – and the Middlesbroughs of this world. We will learn from this year, and try to improve, to make us better.”