‘I lived the dream of every Blades fan’ says Chris Wilder in love letter to Sheffield United fans

IN his time as Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder was never one to back down.

Former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder. Picture: Oli Scarff/PA Wire.

If any rivals aimed a pot-shot at his beloved Blades during his tenure, he would usually have something strong to say about it and defend his club as if it was a member of his own family.

Following Wilder’s exit by mutual consent from Bramall Lane last month, club owner Prince Abdullah – in a wide-ranging interview on Sky Sports News – subsequently revealed that the Blades chief wanted to resign twice and requested a £4m severance package to leave following a disastrous 2020-21 season.

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Significant issues with the club’s hierarchy regarding a number of issues, including recruitment, were also alluded to.

Instead of confronting those claims head on, Wilder decided to issue a heartfelt message to Blades supporters in a statement issued via the League Managers’ Association instead and wished everyone associated with the club ‘the very best in the future’.

It was classy and for Wilder, it perhaps pointed to his own belief that you don’t call your own in public. The 53-year-old may have left Sheffield United, but they will always be ‘his club’. That will never change, as he was quick to say.

Having stood on all four corners of Bramall Lane, Wilder was keen to address Unitedities in his parting message. His people.

All that was missing from what amounted to a love letter was a soft chorus from John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’ in the background.

The Sheffielder spoke about giving fans ‘their club back’ and he certainly did that after taking over just under five years ago.

Wilder, whose eventual time at United encompassed two promotions and helping the club to their highest top-flight finish since 1991-92 when the club also finished ninth, said: “When I walked back into Bramall Lane, in May 2016, having been given the chance to manage the club I had supported all my life, who could have predicted the next four-and-a-half years?

“It has been some journey and one I am immensely proud of. I will miss the feeling of a packed Bramall Lane; to me, it was one of the greatest atmospheres in football but I would say that.

“I lived the dream of every Blades fan and I hope every one of them understands that I tried to represent them correctly in ‘giving them their club back’, a phrase that has been said to me quite a few times. And one I verbally believe we did!

“I would like to wish everyone associated with the football club and the owners the very best in the future.

“This football club will always hold a special place in my heart, it has from an early age and that will never change.”

Wilder’s comment about missing the feeling of a packed Bramall Lane is particularly poignant.

On the last time that fans were present at one of England’s most atmospheric stadiums before the first lockdown, United beat Norwich 1-0 in front of over 31,000 fans to move into the Premier League’s top six.

Billy Sharp, fittingly, scored the winner.

Covid-19 then arrived and life was never the same again.

Wilder added, with more than a hint of regret: “We were in good form when Covid hit last year and who knows how far we could have gone, you could not avoid the talk of possible European football – hopefully that kept a few Unitedites going in a tough period.

“As proved this season, football is just not the same without fans and I stand by the comment that I have made on numerous occasions; the club have missed out more than most – Unitedites have the ability to turn losses into draws and draws into wins.”

Meanwhile, Wilder’s on-pitch leader in Sharp will take no further part in United’s grim 2020-21 season following thigh surgery.

In an Instagram post, Sharp, 35, said: “Always gutting to miss games so to be ruled out for the remainder of the season hurts.

“Sadly the injury was worse than I had hoped but [the] operation went well and [I] will be back stronger next season to get my 250th goal in front of a packed Bramall Lane.”

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