When a team has sat at the bottom of the table all season, it would be natural for the manager to be under more than just a bit of pressure. And that pressure would be particularly acute when a team is at the bottom of the Premier League, with all the financial rewards that go with being there.
Last weekend, Chris Wilder left Sheffield United after nearly five years at the club, with the Blades rock bottom of the Premier League. Yet there had been no clamour for his dismissal despite the club’s struggles, which reflected just how highly the club’s supporters thought of him and the job he’d done.
When Wilder left Northampton Town for Bramall Lane, it was a dream move for him despite the club being in League One. He was a boyhood Blade, and had two spells with the club as a player. He didn’t get off to the best of starts – after four games they were bottom of the table – but the Blades ended his first season in charge as League One champions with a club record 100 points.
Their first season back in the Championship was a good one, and included a 4-2 win over city rivals Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, and a league double over Leeds United. The Blades finished the season in 10th place.
But the following season saw the club return to the Premier League after a twelve year absence, finishing runners-up behind Norwich City after the Blades lost just twice during the second half of the season. It was Sheffield United’s second promotion in three years under Wilder, and this secured him the LMA League Manager of the Year award.
And if Blades supporters were concerned about the ability of their club to survive back in the top flight, they didn’t need to be. Wilder had his team competing at the top end of the table, and prior to the season’s suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they were in the running for a European place. When the season restarted, their form tailed off a little, but they still finished in a healthy ninth place.
There had been tensions between Wilder and the owners regarding the club’s ventures into the transfer market, and during the last summer transfer window, the club probably didn’t strengthen in the way that Wilder would have preferred, and this may have contributed to the decision to part ways by way of mutual consent.
It was a sad way for Wilder’s time at Bramall Lane to end. Although most Blades fans have accepted that they are on their way back to the Championship – odds on according to this site – they were also certain that Chris Wilder was the man to ensure that they would bounce back.