SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder believes the experience gleaned by working his way up from the bottom in Sunday League football has been an invaluable help this season as he closes in on a full set of promotions.
The Blades host Ipswich Town tomorrow knowing that victory will effectively clinch a return to the Premier League.
Only Leeds United can stop the Bramall Lane outfit, but they are three points behind and have a vastly inferior goal difference.
For Wilder, whose journey in coaching began with Bradway FC in the Meadowhall Sunday League, taking his beloved United into the top flight would cap a coaching career that has already seen him win promotion from the Conference, League Two and League One.
“I am proud of my journey,” said the 51-year-old to The Yorkshire Post. “Everyone has their own background. Some are Premier League footballers or international footballers who find themselves getting jobs – or there is the path I have taken.
“Now and again I still watch Sunday League football. There is no snobbery in terms of my background. I have no issue. I look at myself and I am delighted to have had the experiences I have had.”
Wilder’s first major promotion came when leading Oxford United back into the Football League via victory over York City in the 2010 Conference play-off final.
By then he had already won four trophies with Alfreton Town in the Northern Counties East and led Halifax Town to within 10 minutes of a return to the League.
Further success followed when Wilder’s Northampton Town romped to the League Two title in 2016, 12 months before his Blades side chalked up a century of points when winning the third tier.
Should United beat Ipswich tomorrow Wilder will join an exclusive club to have taken teams up to the top four tiers of English football.
“You learn from good and bad experiences in your career,” he added. “I have lost in a play-off final with Halifax when we shouldn’t have been anywhere near it.
“Everything is an experience you can learn from, good and bad. Obviously you try and learn through experience.
“Even now I have learned stuff this season to move us forward.
“You have to keep improving yourself as an individual and as a group to keep moving forward.”
Excitement levels may be reaching fever pitch at the Lane, which sold out in the wake of the 3-0 victory at Hull City on Easter Monday.
Wilder, however, is determined to remain calm amid the air of euphoria that has descended on the red-and-white half of Sheffield this week.
“Just revert to type and do what you have done to get you this far,” he said when asked about dealing with the pressure that accompanies a push for the Premier League.
“It is human nature that everything is going to crank up. I can’t get away from that. I would be mugging myself off if I said there was nothing to play for.
“There is a huge prize, but then there always is. I was at Oxford and the prize of getting back into the Football League – or what would have been the cost if we had not got into the Football League – that was a pressure situation.
“We fall back on our values. What you believe in, how you manage and how you want your group to react and behave.”
Asked about joining one-time Blades chief Neil Warnock in completing a clean sweep of promotions, Wilder added: “I would be proud of that. We are in the game to achieve.
“If that happens we will reflect on that at the end. But we have still got to focus on winning a game of football. Nothing is going to be given to us. We have said that all along and nothing has changed.”
Glad to still be a Blade: Page 24