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Club News

Wilder in his words

19 May 2016

In December 2014, the Blades played Southampton in the quarter-final of the Capital One Cup - a fixture that would see United win to progress to the last four.

That night, UTB, United's official matchday programme, included a three-page article on a former Blades and Saints player by the name of Chris Wilder.

Following last week's unveiling of Wilder as the Blades manager, republishes the article below...

Chris Wilder

Chris Wilder is a Blade - he had two spells as a player at the Lane - but began his career at tonight's visitors, thanks to an intervention by none other than Kevin Keegan! Despite not making it to the first team at Southampton, he went on to make 132 appearances for United, which included the promotion clincher at Leicester in 1990 and also captaining the Blades to an emphatic victory over the Saints. Of course, he is now a respected Football League manager, in charge at Northampton Town, but when UTB caught up him the main focus of his chat was about the Blades. So we sat back and let the man commonly known as 'Tufty' tell it his way...

"I was born in Sheffield, although we lived in London for about four years due to Dad's work. We had lived at Richmond amongst other places and when we came back the choice of schools were basically Ashleigh and Hurlfield for where we lived. Mum and Dad had a sports shop at Arbourthorne by now and Dad used to play football for the Feathers on Prince of Wales Road with the careers master at Silverdale, I think he must have thought the school football team was a bit light, because he got me in there, I mean, Ashleigh had Tony Daws and John Beresford amongst others.

"I knew 'Bez' really well, I used to kick around a ball with him on the playing fields and there were some good lads around schools football in the City at that time. The year above me won the Gillette Schools Trophy at Bramall Lane v Coventry City and I think that Carl Bradshaw's year, the one below me, may have also done the same. Either way, my year didn't manage anything!

"I was a Blade and still am. I was a ballboy at games and when I came to the age of 14, playing for Sheffield Boys, a United scout wanted me to sign for the Club I supported, then things went a little away from where I thought they would.

"Dad knew Stewart Houston, who at that time was captain of United, he told Dad not to let me sign under any circumstances as things in the youth set up were not that good. Somehow Dad got Kevin Keegan's telephone number and made contact with him, things must have gone OK because I was invited done there for trials. I liked them and they seemed to like me, when I was 16 Lawrie McMenemy signed me and away I went to Hampshire.

"There really were some good lads at the Saints back then. Rod and Ray Wallace, Matt Le Tissier, Francis Benali, Allen Tankard, plenty of them. I think 10 out of 12 went on to make their name in league football, some with Saints, others with a host of different teams. Alan Shearer was a little bit younger and on his way through the ranks. I think you could say that they had a fair youth set up back then!

There was some talent in the first team too - Peter Shilton, Mark Wright, Andy Townsend, some real good players and despite the quality of youth it was hard to force your way into contention, a change of manager also didn't help as Chris Nicholl, a former player at The Dell, took over.

"In my time there I never made a first team appearance, and I was chomping at the bit to get a chance. It is funny how sometimes fate plays a strange hand. Southampton signed Gerry Forrest from Rotherham, he in turn tipped Billy McEwan off about me and I was invited to Sheffield over the course of the summer for a trial.

"It was mad to be honest. A Sheffield lad back in his home city and here I was taking part in pre-season training, running around Graves Park, it was a strange homecoming in many ways. I think my first game was v Sheffield Club at Abbeydale Park and I was up against a lot of my mates!

"Billy (McEwan) had the job of trying to change the way United had been doing things. Ian Porterfield had begun to bring in older established pros and it hadn't really worked that well, Billy brought in the likes of me, Peter Beagrie, a little later Mark Todd came in along with Tony Daws and Tony Philliskirk. In my first year they blooded a lot of young players and it went fairly well, the following year was a different story and the manager had a tough time, we had a really bad run of results and he lost his job - Harry Bassett was, of course, his replacement.

"I had some great times under Harry, but I didn't think I was really going to be his cup of tea. I really liked Harry and his management and he did a great job at United, it was a real team unit and players like Dane (Whitehouse) came through with Mitch (Ward), a bit later alongside great buys like Brian Deane and Tony Agana. At one point I shared a house with Brian and Bob Booker, they were happy days.

"I was fortunate to be a part of two promotion teams and the day at Leicester will rate as one of the greatest of my life, what a day that was. There were Blades fans in the team as well as me and to do the job on the last day at Filbert Street was an incredible memory made even better by the demise of our neighbours.

"After the game we struggled to get into the car park back at Bramall Lane and it was even harder to get back into town after for a drink, I just remember London Road being closed, it was the biggest street party ever.

"In the top flight the battle for a place was really tough with players like John Pemberton, Kevin Gage and Colin Hill around, but I was still young, happy and content to fight it out.

"Harry made me captain v Southampton, he didn't tell me until it was time to take the teamsheets down and it meant a lot, Chris Nicholl had let me go, so to stand outside the ref's room with him as a skipper in the top flight meant the world, as did the result that day, we were 4-0 up in no time!

"I left to get regular first team football, Rotherham was great for me as was Notts County and Bradford City, the Bantams were really good and I loved it there, but they had a panic sale and on the same day got rid of me, Eddie Youds and Peter Beagrie - Steve Thompson, who I had played with, brought me back to Bramall Lane.

"Heart ruled head, I knew I was coming back as a squad player but it was home, we had a good Cup run but I missed out because I was already cup-tied with Bradford, that said I am really proud to have had two opportunities to have pulled the famous shirt on.

"I still keep in contact with the lads and a lot off the staff, we had something really special at Bramall Lane, a real togetherness from top to bottom, and I think that is sadly missing from football these days as players get more detached from their roots.

"I have managed a few clubs and am now at Northampton, a great club with a top set up. That said, if ever we are without a fixture and United are at home, there is only one place that I will be."

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