A boyhood Sheffield United fan, Chris Wilder made his senior debut for the club as a fresh-faced defender back in 1986. But it seems the boyhood Blade will make by far his biggest impact at Bramall Lane in the dugout.
They’re Yorkshire giants look set for promotion to the Championship, with an eight-point cushion over the play-off pack right now – but the signs suggest Wilder could take the club further than the second tier.
The 49-year-old has plenty of pedigree in chalking up promotions, having led three of his four previous outfits up the football pyramid – including winning the League Two title with Northampton Town last season, as the club chalked 15 wins and eight draws in an unbeaten second half of the campaign.
That feat reflects just how motivated and disciplined Wilder gets his squads, and he’s brought the best out of a number of players in the Blades ranks.
Billy Sharp is one – enjoying arguably the form of his career, with 19 goals in 30 League One outings – while Stefan Scougall has been transformed from inconsistent squad player to one of the division’s most dynamic midfielders.
Wilder has been helped by financial backing from the club’s board, too. That’s allowed him to bolster the squad and build real strength in depth, with acquisitions like powerful forward James Hanson from Bradford City, former Burnley ace Danny Lafferty and the lively Caolan Lavery from city rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
While none of those men have cost Paul Pogba money, having a decent transfer kitty isn’t something every side in League One – or even the Championship, for that matter – can boast of, and it sets Wilder up well for next season, with United surely returning to the second tier.
They’re likely to manage just fine on their return. With a top-class manager, transfer funds available, and one of the largest and most loyal fanbases in the country – Ladbrokes News tip our hat to that average League One attendance of 20,128 – they’ve all the attributes to be looking up, instead of down, next season.
There have been recent examples of the famed ‘Double Bounce’ to follow in recent years, with both Southampton and Norwich City producing back-to-back promotions to reach the Premier League in the last eight years. And it’s a feat United have managed themselves in the past.
Under legendary gaffer Dave Bassett, they went from League One also-rans to a top-flight outfit in two seasons, between 1988 and 1990. And there’s no reason to think they can’t repeat that feat with Wilder.
That’s reflected in the odds, with our traders making it a 12/5 shot that the Blades finish in the Championship play-off spots next season, while 11/2 says they win promotion at the first time of asking.
Next up for Wilder’s men is a trip to Peterborough on Saturday, with 17/20 for United to edge another step closer to promotion with victory at the ABAX Stadium.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing