Six of the best – Chris Wilder’s most memorable moments at Sheffield United

CHRIS WILDER’S tenure at Sheffield United has been epic - and in the words of former Blades midfielder Vinnie Jones, it has also been emotional.

Chris Wilder has created some special memories during his time in charge at Sheffield United. Pictures: SportImage.
Chris Wilder has created some special memories during his time in charge at Sheffield United. Pictures: SportImage.

In his time in charge at Bramall Lane, only Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola (134) and Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp (117) won more league games under a single manager in England’s top four tiers than the Blades did under Wilder, who presided over 94 in his spell at the club from May, 2016 to today. Here are six of the most memorable moments.

Sheffield United 3 Chesterfield 2, April 30, 2017; League One: A strike eight minutes from time from Daniel Lafferty saw Chris Wilder’s brilliant, relentless Blades crown their outstanding renaissance campaign in 2016-17 by reaching the 100-point milestone for the season following victory over near-neighbours Chesterfield.

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The relegated Spireites had earlier levelled twice to cancel out strikes from Kieron Freeman and Billy Sharp in front of 31,003 fans. But the League One champions fittingly had the final word, with Lafferty’s fourth goal of the season enabling them to record their 30th win of the campaign and become the first side in Yorkshire to reach a century of league points since York City achieved that feat in 1983-84.

MAGIC MOMENT: Sheffield United's Daniel Lafferty celebrates scoring his side's third goal against Chesterfield at Bramall Lane in April 2017. Picture: David Klein/Sportimage

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Sheffield United 4, September 24, 2017; Championship: Lifelong Blade Wilder was provided with the perfect 50th birthday gift on his anniversary weekend after witnessing his side beat the old enemy at Hillsborough - and win their first Steel City since 2012 in style.

Goals from John Fleck and ex-Owls forward Leon Clarke put the visitors in dreamland early on before Wednesday rallied to level thanks to Gary Hooper and Lucas Joao. But a fine strike from Mark Duffy just one minute and 47 seconds after Joao’s leveller put the Blades back in front before Clarke struck again to give United their first success at S6 since 2006.

Leeds United 0 Sheffield United 1, March 16, 2019; Championship: A 71st-minute strike complete with a victory slide from Chris Basham gave Wilder’s Blades a huge victory during a tense promotion run-in at the expense of big Yorkshire promotion rivals Leeds in their own back yard.

Ahead of the game, Leeds defender Pontus Jansson said it was ‘the game of our lives’ in reference to its importance and it was United who held their nerve to triumph in the wind and rain as they recorded back-to-back wins in Leeds for the first time since March, 1961.

DERBY DELIGHT: Leon Clarke scores his second goal past Keiren Westwood in the 4-2 win over Sheffield Wednesday in September 2017. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

It put the visitors in fine fettle as they departed for Spain for some warm-weather training and a spot of rest and relaxation before the serious business began again. Quite simply, it was a huge moment in the Blades’ promotion campaign.

Sheffield United 2 Ipswich Town 0, April 27, 2019; Championship: United effectively sealed promotion to the Premier League by beating relegated Ipswich at Bramall Lane in front of 30,140 most delirious fans. Goals from Scott Hogan and Jack O’Connell put the Blades six points clear of third-placed Leeds, whose draw with Aston Villa the following day rubber-stamped a top-flight return for United after a 12-year absence - and an impromptu party at Bramall Lane.

Wilder’s remarkable exploits that season earned him the prestigious League Managers’ Association award in 2018-19.

Sheffield United 1 Norwich City 0, March 7, 2020; Premier League: The history books will denote that this game was decided when Billy Sharp headed his third goal in four matches to move Wilder’s Blades - the story of the Premier League season last term along with Liverpool - up to the giddy heights of sixth spot in the top flight.

SWEET MOMENT: Chris Basham celebrates scoring the winning goal against Yorkshire rivals at Elland Road in March 2019. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

It was a day that was significant for the fact that life was never quite the same after for Wilder and the Blades in what proved to be their last game in front of spectators at Bramall Lane, all 31,217 of them.

How Wilder has missed them watching his back and providing support to his side at an arena which is as raucous as it gets when it is crammed full. As it was regularly under Wilder, before Covid-19 changed the dynamic of sport.

Lockdown soon began and United were faced with a new reality sans fans and their fates have unraveled since. It is amazing to think that victory arrived just over a year ago.

Sheffield United 3 Tottenham Hotspur 1, July 2, 2020; Premier League: In a season when Wilder’s Blades’ outwitted many, here he outsmarted the ‘Special One’ in Jose Mourinho, who was magnanimous in his praise of his opposite number after - and famously interrupted Wilder’s post-match interview to do just that.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder celebrates after the final whistle after beating Ipswich Town 2-0 at Bramall Lane on April 27, 2019 - effectively sealing promotion to the Premier League. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

An emotional Wilder thanked Mourinho for his classy gesture afterwards as United produced another special episode in their medley of magic moments under Wilder. More’s the pity no supporters were present to lap it all up.

It was a summer night when United picked up their first win since the Premier League restarted as they produced a hugely impressive display at a time when talk of Europe was on the horizon.

Blades’ record signing Sander Berge opened his account for the club with a neat finish before Harry Kane had an ‘equaliser’ ruled out controversially by VAR because of a handball by Lucas Moura in the build-up.

For the umpeenth time in the Wilder era, his side imposed their will on an opponent and it was ultimately too much. Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie added further goals before Kane’s consolation.

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Billy Sharp heads the winning goal against Norwich City at Bramall Lane on March 7, 2020, moving the Blades up to sixth in the Premier League table. Picture: Alistair Langham/Sportimage
SPECIAL WIN: Oli McBurnie scores Sheffield United's third goal against Tottenham at Bramall Lane in July last year, the hosts winning 3-1. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage