CHRIS WILDER has a ringing endorsement from Sheffield United's most successful manager of the modem era as he attempts to hoist one of football's serial under- achievers from the third tier, writes ALAN BIGGS
Dave Bassett is backing the Blades' ninth new boss in as many years as the "ideal choice" for the kind of revival mission he himself had to perform at Bramall Lane ahead of the club's last sustained spell in the top flight.
Wilder was a player under Bassett as United jumped two divisions into the Premier League and stayed for four seasons in the early 1990s. And the promotion-winning Northampton boss, who has just landed his dream job with his boyhood favourites, has used his old boss as a sounding board throughout a 14-year apprenticeship spanning more than 700 games.
Now Bassett, who is thought to have recommended Wilder in the past, told The Football League Paper: "I'm delighted for Chris and for the club. This, for me, is a good choice."
Though he has kept his counsel, it’s heavily rumoured that Bassett hasn’t always been enamoured with United’s choice of bosses during the post-Neil Warnock slide that sees them now facing a sixth year in League One. It follows a disappointing 11th-place finish this term which led to the sacking of Nigel Adkins.
Bassett’s support for Wilder is symbolically important and is based on the flinty character of a man charged with putting some proverbial steel back into the Blades after a season of insipid performances.
“Chris was already at Bramall Lane when I arrived in 1988 and he had a difficult time surviving under me,” recalls Bassett. “He got dropped a few times but that’s when he showed his resilience.
“I know he had the hump with me quite a few times but he kept battling and wouldn’t give in. That’s what I always like about him and it’s something he’s brought into management.
“He wasn’t technically a good right-back but I didn’t think he was quick enough or athletic enough for the Premier League when we got there. Despite that his attitude was always excellent. I have great respect for him. Since those days Chris has often consulted me. We’ve kept in touch at all his clubs.”
Such has been the strength of the bond spanning Wilder’s time at Halifax Town, Oxford United (brought back into the Football League by Wilder) and Northampton Town where he pulled of a miraculous relegation escape and won promotion in the face of financial crisis, the Blades could do worse than employ Bassett in an advisory capacity in tandem with his protege.
Bassett is happy to keep the advice on tap regardless, adding: “I think it is important that the club have picked someone who knows what Sheffield United is all about. Someone who knows the passion of the city and what supporters expect. And someone who has done well at all his clubs.”
Wilder, who has launched into the job by making talismanic striker Billy Sharp captain, was on the brink of joining Charlton when the call came from the club he has followed since boyhood. Blackburn also wanted him but he insisted: "I just couldn't turn this down. I'm honoured and delighted to be here."
Accompanied by his trusty assistant Alan Knill, the 48-year-old
added: "We will bring this club together and I know what it can be like here when that happens. We shouldn't be in this division. I've not had a failure on
my cv and I don't want one now."
Co-chairman Kevin McCabe said: “Chris has been on my radar for some time as a manager on his way up. He understands the ethos of the club.
“Money has been wasted here but there will be financial support for Chris. Our budget will still be one of the biggest at this level.”