Chris Wilder feels back to his best as he starts second Sheffield United spell

Wilder has replaced Paul Heckingbottom at Bramall Lane.

Jonathan Veal
Tuesday 05 December 2023 19:54 GMT
Chris Wilder is back in charge of Sheffield United (PA)
Chris Wilder is back in charge of Sheffield United (PA)

Returning Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder says he is now a better manager after he replaced the sacked Paul Heckingbottom.

Wilder is back at Bramall Lane for a second spell in charge after Heckingbottom was removed in the wake of Saturday’s humiliating loss at Burnley, which saw them slip to the bottom of the Premier League.

The 56-year-old jumped at the chance to go back to the club he supported as a boy, represented as a player and took from League One to ninth in the top tier during his first spell in the dugout.

Wilder, who is thrown into the deep end with a home game against Liverpool on Wednesday, has had stints at Middlesbrough and Watford since leaving Bramall Lane in March 2021, but says the Blades are now getting the best of him.

“I am going to give it my all, I am more enthusiastic and determined than I have ever been, Sheffield United are getting me at my best as well,” he said.

“For me, this is a huge challenge personally, and I am rubbing my hands together to try and help the club get out of the position we are in. We are up against it, everyone in the world thinks we are done and dusted. We have always had that underdog tag, that mentality.

“I have come back to help the football club. I have been given a great opportunity to hopefully make a difference.

“It is going to be a long hard season, we know that, we are going to have some difficult moments and we are going to have to suffer. I am into the players and hopefully we can get a reaction.”

Wilder has settled his differences with owner Prince Abdullah, which led to him being sacked in 2021 with the club on the way down to the Championship.

“There were certain things that I shouldn’t have been involved, but things over time have been repaired and there is a reason Prince Abdullah wants me to come back to the football club,” he added.

“Regardless of what other people think, he feels I am the best man to do the job and I am delighted he thinks that. The biggest positive for me is that the relationship between him and myself is good and he wants me to come back.”

Heckingbottom, who was appointed on a permanent basis in November 2021, guided the club to promotion last term but a torrid start to the season has included an 8-0 home thrashing by Newcastle and a 5-0 defeat at Arsenal.

United chief executive Stephen Bettis said in a statement: “Firstly, on behalf of the board of directors, I’d like to thank Paul for all of his efforts at Sheffield United, firstly as under-23s manager before stepping up to take control of first-team duties.

“His professionalism and dedication have been a credit to the club and I’m sure all Unitedites enjoyed the promotion-winning campaign.

“However, after slipping to the bottom of the table and a number of disappointing results and performances, it is felt that a change is needed to give the club a boost and every possible chance of remaining in the Premier League beyond this season.”

First-team coaches Stuart McCall and Mark Hudson have also left the club.

In a statement released via the League Managers Association, Heckingbottom said he was leaving “with many great memories created by many great people” and that it had been an “honour to lead the team”.

He thanked Prince Abdullah and the board for the opportunity he was given, as well as Bramall Lane, academy and first-team staff and the players that worked under him, adding: “Our history-making season in the face of adversity, born out of a heart-breaking and emotional loss in the play-offs the season before, will forever be my highlight. A record 91 Championship points and an FA Cup semi-final does not begin to tell the story.”

Heckingbottom also thanked the fans for their support, saying: “Bramall Lane on a match day will always hold a special place in my heart. I loved it! When the dust settles, that is what will bring me back.”

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in