LIKE Dave Bassett before him, Chris Wilder does not strike you as one of those individuals who will be easily intimidated by the revered managerial names whom he will be pitting his wits against in the Premier League ‘big time’.
Neither will he be cowed by the stature of some of the teams who his Sheffield United side lock horns with from August either.
READ MORE - Millers star on his way -
A healthy respect for his dug-out adversaries and the clubs who the Blades will come up against, for sure. But most definitely no vestiges of an inferiority complex – both within himself or, more importantly, his players.
Bramall Lane cult hero Bob Booker can vouch for the mindset of both Wilder – whom he lived with for a short spell in the late Eighties in a house in the Sheffield suburb of Gleadless which they shared with former striker Tony Agana – and Bassett, and spies similarities.
Booker was part of a United squad under Bassett who did it tough at the start of 1990-91 following a tortuous 16-match winless league start to the campaign.
It has been a team and staff effort and they clearly all have a special bond and so much respect for each other and that speaks volumes.Bob Booker
Fatefully, Bassett’s troops were down, but not out. They ended the season in 13th after a staggering post-Christmas transformation which led Brian Clough to say that Bassett should have been named the manager of the year.
Booker told The Yorkshire Post: “Harry did not have any fear in terms of who we were playing and installed that into us. I think Chris will install that into his players and it will be similar.
“It will not be easy, but he will be stressing that they must not be fazed by it at all.
“It will be just another game of football for Chris. Those big managers should also think what a job he has done at that football club and think: ‘Hang on a minute, this lad has not just got there by luck.’
“He has earned his stripes in the lower leagues and never been sacked and has got promotion at every (league) club he has been to and it is one hell of a record.
“I am sure the big managers will respect that. They will have to do or they will come unstuck.”
Famously, Bassett was once described by his former right-hand man Geoff Taylor as having the ability to quickly display ‘a different head’.
It referenced his ability to compartmentalise and swiftly switch from being one of the lads straight back to the serious business of being the ‘gaffer’ again.
Booker has observed that trait in his former team-mate as well and after the richly-deserved celebrations following United’s return to the top-flight – which were justifiably long and milked to the full – Wilder will have parked that episode and will solely be interested in the future and not basking in the glow of previous accomplishments.
Booker added: “Chris is very much in the Bassett mould. He is the gaffer, but you saw the celebrations and he was really with the players and rightly so.
“I was up for a couple of games at the end of the season and in his office. It was the day that Leeds played in a late kick-off and he came into the manager’s room and we were watching the Leeds game and he just said turn that off and we just had a drink and what will be, will be.
“It has been a team and staff effort and they clearly all have a special bond and so much respect for each other and that speaks volumes. I think that will be massive in their quest to stay in the Premier League.
“After all the euphoria of going up, Chris will have put that to bed now. All the celebrations will be done and now he will really get down to the hard work as it is going to be a hell of a hard season.”
A relatively sedate opening sees United, who open up at Bournemouth, face home games with Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Southampton and Booker believes that his old club have it in their armoury to harness the momentum which took them over the line in the Spring into their new adventure.
Should they require an example to follow, the experiences of Brighton in their first season back in the top-flight in 2017-18 – a club who Booker knows plenty about after a long association with – are worth bearing in mind.
“I have been involved at Brighton and I remember in the first season in the Premier League and people did not know that much about them and they caught a few people by surprise in those early games. That can happen.
“The newness can really spur you on and keep you going.
“The club have got to enjoy and grasp it. The important thing now is keeping their Premier League status. It is all right getting there; now they must stay there and that was the first thing Chris Hughton did at Brighton. If you can stay up in the first year, it is a massive.
“Chris will probably be picking out a mini-league where he hopes to pick up points. Without writing the other ones off, they will be the important games.
“He might have to bolster the squad a little bit, but at the end of the day, those lads deserve to play against the big boys. There will be ones who stick with Chris on the journey and others might struggle. They all need to be given a chance and have deserved that right.”