Why Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder's silence speaks volumes

Wilder may have been keeping his thoughts to himself recently as far as supporters are concerned. A surefire bet it’s been anything but at the training complex.

WINNING mentality is rare and admired from afar. But when that encroaches into backyards closer to home it’s a different matter. People aren’t quite as enthusiastic when confronted by truths they don’t want to hear.

Which is why, I suspect, until now manager Chris Wilder has been notably absent from speaking to the media since Sheffield United's 15-match unbeaten league run hit the buffers at Bramall Lane nine days ago.

Wilder has winning mentality in abundance. His managerial career, spanning 15 years, is driven by it and has earned plaudits wherever he's been.

Something fully embraced by the Bramall Lane faithful who recognise the rapid and transformative progress he has delivered since being appointed in May.

It’s encouraging when your back is to the wall and the man in charge comes out fighting, no excuses and tells it as it is. Exactly what Wilder did as the Blades opening to the season didn’t go anything like to plan. Even better when the sun is shining, the team is flying, winning has become the norm and promotion is a reality. Let the good times roll.


It's a lonely place, however, when serious concerns are identified but all around you are smiling faces as results keep coming and the message is 'well done, pal'. It's too easy to go with the flow. Which defines the also-rans from the achievers.

That's the burden for those with a winning mentality. Not too many possess it and to accomplish more than just what most regard as acceptable, requires a brutal honesty and the resolve to deliver it.

The only question being is it beneficial to put that in the public domain or should it remain behind closed doors? The majority of managers choose the latter usually until it's too late. Wilder is made of sterner stuff. It's an attitude that defines him. Which is why some may say, he dug himself into a hole and subsequently chose to observe radio silence for the last nine days.

He couldn't hide his fury and tore into his team following the recent 1-1 draw at Charlton after United let two points slip in added time after dominating for almost the entire match. An outcome he described among other things as ‘criminal’.


This after giving his team a pass for making such hard work of beating Shrewsbury and Bury who both finished with nine men at the Lane. "I've let the players off the last couple of games," he admitted in the aftermath at The Valley. 

Some may have regarded that as harsh for a team that had taken seven out of nine points from those fixtures and extended a glorious unbeaten run to 15. Others, like me, view it as reassuring. The bar has been set high. Consequently the greater the fall.

If he was looking for a response, however, he didn't get one as history repeated itself for the fourth successive match, but this time the Blades lost to the only goal of the night at the Lane. Walsall, overrun and clutching at straws, couldn't believe their luck as they ended United's magnificent run in the unlikeliest fashion.

Pointedly, Wilder strode onto the pitch and joined his beaten players in a public show of solidarity.  Even though they were guilty of everything – and more because they lost – of what prompted the manager to set about them  so severely at The Valley three days earlier. Man management and an acknowledgement carrot rather than stick also has an important role to play.

Since then No2 Alan Knill has been fielding questions and United have suffered another defeat, 3-2 at Bolton in the FA Cup. A tie in which United enjoyed two thirds of possession and for much of the match looked the better team. Still much work to do then and it's more than likely the manager was spitting feathers as he and his players remained locked in the dressing room long after Blades fans were well on their way home.

Wilder may have been keeping his thoughts to himself recently as far as supporters are concerned.  A surefire bet it's been anything but at the training complex as they prepare for the visit of Swindon Town. A fixture which has taken on greater significance than it might have done two weeks ago. "It's a big, big game for us," acknowledged Knill.

Like everyone else, Wilder has probably learned a lesson or two this past fortnight. But Blades fans can rest assured how to win short-term popularity contests won't be one of them.