SHEFFIELD UNITED’S disgraceful decision to sack Chris Wilder brought an end to the greatest era in the club’s post-war history.
The boyhood fan and former player brought unprecedented joy to thousands of fans – and it is unlikely they will have it as good again.
Chris Wilder, 53, did a remarkable job at Sheffield UnitedCredit: AFP
It is important to remember where the Blades were when Wilder took charge in the summer of 2016.
They had just completed their fifth year in League One, finishing 11th under Wilder’s predecessor Nigel Adkins.
The club was riddled with apathy and frustration, with fans desperate for them to appoint the right person and return to the Championship.
In his first season in charge, Wilder’s team – playing free-flowing, attacking football – won the title with 100 points.
They captured the imagination of the supporters, reinvigorating their faith and giving them a team to adore.
And the best was yet to come.
In their first season back in the Championship, they recorded a famous 4-2 win at Hillsborough – the home of rivals Sheffield Wednesday – and competed for promotion.
Wilder’s team were top of the table in November, but a serious injury to midfielder Paul Coutts derailed their campaign and they finished ninth.
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The following season they strengthened, bringing in Ollie Norwood, David McGoldrick, Dean Henderson and John Egan, and won promotion to the Premier League.
The Blades continued to prove doubters wrong in the top flight, finishing ninth last season.
Within four years, Wilder had taken them from third division obscurity to within a whisker of qualifying for Europe.
And now, after one poor half-season – when a realistic chance of survival had already gone – he has been sacked.
Regardless of the conflict between Wilder and the board, it is a ridiculous move to get rid of the club’s greatest manager.
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It has alienated large sections of the fanbase, who will only begin to accept his departure if they achieve success again – and that may be some time.
Wilder’s interim successor, Paul Heckingbottom, got off to a horrible start – losing 5-0 to Leicester City.
Sheffield United maintain they are in a strong place as they look to build a squad that can make an immediate return to the Premier League.
CEO Stephen Bettis has said: “We’ve made a significant investment in the football club in the last few years, in excess of £100million on players, all of which are young, exciting players with great prospects for the future.
“And I think the club is in a really good place.”
But it is hard not to fear for them.
Wilder has left a void his permanent successor will find almost impossible to fill.
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