THE changing of the guard this summer has not been limited to just Downing Street.
What the duo have achieved in three years at the helm is remarkable. What lays ahead, however, is likely to be their biggest test yet.Richard Sutcliffe on Chris Wilder and Alan Knill at Sheffield United
Sheffield United, following last season’s Titanic promotion tussle with Leeds United, are Yorkshire’s new representative at the top table of English football.
Chris Wilder’s Blades replace Huddersfield Town, a side whose stay in the Premier League was not wholly different to Theresa May’s similarly short stint as Prime Minister.
Things started well for Mrs May and the Terriers amid hopes that both could deliver.
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For one, Brexit proved the Achilles heel while the other simply could not score goals. The end result, though, was the same – demotion and a return to the wilderness as others get a crack at the big time.
To some, Boris Johnson will face as many difficulties as the Blades. But, at least Bramall Lane can boast proven leadership skills in the form of Chris Wilder and Alan Knill.
What the duo have achieved in three years at the helm is remarkable. What lays ahead, however, is likely to be their biggest test yet.
The Premier League, as Huddersfield discovered when relegated in record-equalling time, can be unforgiving.
Weeks can pass without so much as a point being garnered, something that will be tough for a squad used to winning under Wilder. Ensuring his players do not lose heart even during the rocky times – and the turn of the year will bring two meetings with Manchester City, plus trips to Liverpool and Arsenal inside just 25 days – will be key.
Jan Siewert’s task at Huddersfield is the polar opposite. Namely, banishing the losing culture that seeped into every pore of the club from Christmas onwards and meant Town were often beaten before a ball had been kicked.
Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday are the county’s big beasts in the Championship. For so long last term, Elland Road seemed destined to stage top-flight football in the club’s centenary year only for Marcelo Bielsa’s side to be reined in by the Blades.
Helder Costa is an impressive addition on loan but the squad still looks thin, particularly up front where both Patrick Bamford and Kemar Roofe – the latter now into the final 12 months of his contract – had lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Wednesday, meanwhile, lost Steve Bruce in a summer that saw the club placed under a soft transfer embargo after posting their accounts for 2017-18 late. Barry Bannan and Fernando Forestieri once again seem to be pivotal figures and the Owls need both firing regardless of who comes in to succeed Bruce.
Hull City and Middlesbrough both have new managers at the helm. Grant McCann’s job seems to keep the Tigers on an even keel after a summer when the loss of the Premier League parachute payments has led to financial cloth being cut accordingly, while Daniel Stendel will again be looking for Barnsley to progress following promotion.