“I don’t like to do this,” said Tony Cascarino, then did it anyway. “But I sometimes think, Man United job, Arsenal job, Chrissy Wilder? Absolutely.”
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Kevin Nolan had been banging the same drum on Sky Sports the previous evening.
“I don’t see any reason why not. With what he has done with Sheffield United, he has to be,” he said when asked if Wilder should be in the reckoning if and when those jobs became vacant.
Former Leeds United midfielder Lee Bowyer was in agreement.
The secret is out, not just about a manager who has been in the profession for nearly two decades of consistent success, but of the qualities of his largely unheralded players, most of whom – like Wilder – have worked their way up the pyramid.
John Lundstram’s two goals against Burnley made people wake up to his contribution this season, and with every win – particularly over big boys like the Gunners, who they beat in a televised game last month – others will soon be thrust into the spotlight.
The higher the Blades are in the table when the transfer window opens, the less tempted players will be by offers from elsewhere.Stuart Rayner
Much more of this, and people will start to realise the Blades actually play some good football, rather than assuming – presumably because of their manager’s nationality and background – they have hoofed their way up the divisions.
“Lord Lundstram” might be an unlikely nickname for a player who has slummed it around the Football League since trying and failing to make it at Everton, but the tag given to him by some very grateful fantasy football managers demonstrates how footballing emotions tend to veer from one extreme to the other.
For individuals who have largely gone without it over the years in a media landscape increasingly dominated not just by the Premier League but the most high-profile clubs in it, the recognition must be nice, even if Wilder was quick to pour cold water on it in the afterglow of the victory which put his side into the top six places.
Fortunately, neither he nor any of his players are likely to let their new-found fame go to their heads. The home dressing room at Bramall Lane is not a place for ‘Big Time Charlies’.
Wilder was talking about Lundstram, but could have been referring to any of his players when he said: “I don’t think he’ll be bothered (about the attention).
“John scores two in the Premier League and there are going to be a few headlines written about him, I understand that.
“John isn’t that type of boy (to get carried away), he’ll just get on with it. He’ll make sure he stays normal.
“He’ll be very wary of saying something daft that players – or manager – might jump on.”
What the Blades do not want is the big clubs getting their chequebooks out. Prince Musa’ad bin Khalid Al Saud, the Premier League’s youngest chairman will be overseeing his first transfer window in January, so it is hard to second-guess what his response will be if big offers come in for his players. We can probably imagine Wilder’s, and the second word is likely to be “off”.
It is yet another reason why a flying start to the season is such good news.
Newly-promoted clubs need to break the back of their points-gathering before Christmas because the reverse fixtures become more difficult as managers, analysts and scouts get a feel for them. The biggest challenge for players new to the Premier League is believing they belong there.
“I always believed I could play at the top,” said Lundstram.
“But at the same time the position I was in last year (struggling to get into the Blades’s Championship XI) it didn’t seem that I could.”
Having only been beaten by an uncharacteristic goalkeeping mistake by Liverpool, and after seeing off Arsenal, they will go into games against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United believing their much-vaunted opponents are there for the taking.
The higher the Blades are in the table when the transfer window opens, the less tempted players will be by offers from elsewhere.
If they believe they are involved in something special they will be more reluctant to walk away from it. The same goes for Wilder. His fondness for the club is well known, but he is hard-nosed enough not to hang around on a sinking ship if he has head-turning alternatives.
Fortunately, the early signs are that this is a club worth persevering with and the football snobbery which colours perceptions of how Wilder and his team play are likely to stop aristocrats such as Arsenal and Manchester United picking up the phone.
It might be frustrating, but the longer others look down their noses at Sheffield United, the better.