Managing Sheffield United as a fan brings extra pressures, says Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder has spoken about the pressures which come with managing the football club you support
Chris Wilder has spoken about the pressures which come with managing the football club you support
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As boyhood Sheffield United fan Chris Wilder prepares to take on lifelong Aston Villa supporter Dean Smith at Bramall Lane on Saturday, he admitted being in charge of the club you followed as a child comes with added pressure.

As well as their managers, both sides are captained by fans too, in Billy Sharp and Jack Grealish.

In October 2018 Smith took over an Aston Villa team 14th in the Championship and struggling financially and mentally to overcome the disappointment of defeat in the play-off final to Fulham. He turned their fortunes around and they followed the Blades up into the Premier League, again via the play-offs.

“The run he had when he took charge at Villa was brilliant, club records broken here there and everywhere,” said Wilder, admiringly. “I know Dean well and the work he did at Brentford.

“Going into Villa, everyone talks about boyhood fans but he would have been under huge pressure and put pressure on himself to get results.

“The manner he did it was outstanding. The (play-off) final was a tight game but I was delighted for Dean and his players.

“I was up close and personal at the play-off final doing a bit of media work and I saw in the reaction afterwards how they felt. I looked at their eyes they were shattered with how much work they’d put in.

“Jack was desperate to get the team into the Premier League and Dean and John Terry (his assistant) did a lot of work.

“It does bring expectation and added pressure but Grealish's performances say he’s handled that well, it's a huge club in a big city.

“We're looking at it as a great game, last year there were two outstanding games, the home game was as good as we played for a long time at Bramall Lane according to the fans.

“The fighting spirit showed by Villa to come back from 0-3 (to draw 3-3), we’ll look at it as self-inflicted because the game was done. It shows what they have in their squad and they can’t be underestimated.”

Grealish has been the star performer for Villa this season, but Wilder knows the threat goes beyond that.

“It would be disrespectful to Dean and his team to just look at Grealish,” he said. “It was a good group that got them out of division – (John) McGinn, (Conor) Hourihane, they signed (Tyrone) Mings in the summer, they have a good goalkeeper in (Tom) Heaton, there's (Matt) Targett, they've spent money at the top of the pitch, there's (Jonathan) Kodjia on the bench.

“Jack is a fantastic player and the heartbeat of their team, he's key to them. We have to defend well and wrap him and their front boys up. We have to make sure we play as we did at Norwich, go and cause their back four a problem with how we play when we get on the ball.”