Geoffrey Boycott would have been proud of Chris Wilder’s approach with Sheffield United

A LITTLE over four weeks ago, and just as the finishing line in the Championship promotion race first hoved into view, Chris Wilder mimed a forward defensive stroke so stubbornly solid even Geoffrey Boycott would have been proud.

True Blade: Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder celebrates.

We were standing in the Spring sunshine outside Sheffield United’s Shirecliffe training ground and the club’s manager was making the point to The Yorkshire Post and the rest of the local media that he was about to, in his words, “bore the pants” off everyone once the dictaphones and radio mics were turned on.

The Blades were sitting second in the table, the 1-0 victory over Leeds United at Elland Road 13 days earlier meaning the initiative had swung the way of the Bramall Lane outfit.

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Wilder was desperate to keep it that way and did not want Leeds finding inspiration from any loose talk emanating from the Blades’ camp.

So an instruction had gone out to the United squad that any interviews must be conducted with a metaphorical straight bat.

Later George Baldock, the player put up for interview that day, was walking back towards the main Academy building, his media duties completed. The United manager was coming the other way.

Again, a beaming Wilder picked up his imaginary bat and adopted a Boycott-esque stroke. This newspaper’s suggestion that the wing-back had, instead, danced down the wicket and attempted to smash an enticing slower ball over long-on drew only a laugh.

Wilder, despite the stakes being so high, was clearly in a relaxed mood and this has filtered down to his players – as Baldock made clear in the aftermath of the 2-0 win over Ipswich that effectively took the Blades up.

“The gaffer just said embrace it,” said the 26-year-old to The Yorkshire Post about the run-in.

“He is a Sheffield lad and has supported the club since he was a young kid.

“He knows what it is all about. It is brilliant to have two people (in Wilder and captain Billy Sharp) at the top of their game who know what it means to the city.

“It is invaluable. They know the pressure and understand the crowd. They have had play-off heartache and been let down at times. So to give them something to smile and shout about, it feels unbelievable.”

United’s charge for the Premier League gathered pace after the turn of the year. The 44 points plundered by the Blades from the last 20 games is the highest in the Championship.

Baldock, a 2017 signing from Milton Keynes Dons, added: “Since my time here the gaffer has always had the mindset of starting (games) like we are a goal behind.

“It is a philosophy he has drilled into us. We attack and, if it breaks down, someone is there to attack again.

“I remember my first pre-season here. The manager talked to us about Bournemouth and how a lot of their lads had come up from League Two.

“He said to us that we could do the same. He basically said, ‘Why not?’”

Wilder returned to the cricket theme last Thursday when the prospect of promotion had attracted an unusually high media presence to Shirecliffe. “I am going to be like Boycott again,” he said with a big smile. “The Western Terrace will be empty.”

His adoption of a true Yorkshire sporting icon when joshing with the media may have been done mainly for comic purposes, but it also felt quite apt.

Like Boycott, Wilder is single-minded in his quest for success.

Like Boycott, Wilder is not afraid of putting in the hard yards to achieve that success.

And like Boycott, Wilder – barring the past month or so – is not afraid to upset others with his views on all manner of topics.

Be it how former England internationals are often parachuted into the big jobs through to those clubs who blatantly flout Financial Fair Play regulations, the United chief can be brutally honest.

He will be a worthy addition to the Premier League. As will a team whose swashbuckling style means the cream of English football are unlikely to have it all their own way at the Lane.