It was probably the pressure, the pain of defeat or, most likely, a combination of both.
But, even though Phil Parkinson’s bizarre outburst last weekend can probably be forgiven, it should still be made clear that the Bolton Wanderers manager was talking nonsense when he accused Chris Wilder of enjoying an open cheque book at Bramall Lane.
Although some will find it hilarious the former Bradford City chief saw fit to talk finance - his present employers, despite losing around £1m a month, are still signing players rather than promoting from within - Parkinson’s comment deserves to challenged. Not least because, after years of wasting huge sums on players who were actually worth a pittance, it misrepresents what has been happening behind the scenes at Sheffield United this term.
Wilder, in the interests of diplomacy, refused to respond after Billy Sharp’s brace moved his team seven points clear at the top of the League One table. But, seeing as a career in the FCO never really interested me, I will: United’s transformation has been driven by a recruitment strategy which, in contrast to many other clubs, is based on intelligence gathering rather than heavy investment.
Five of the players signed by Wilder during the close season, including Jake Wright, Mark Duffy and John Fleck, did not actually cost a fee. Of those that did, the amounts involved were, in the present climate, pretty negligible.
Although these figures have never been officially confirmed, third parties within the game tell me that, since the 49-year-old’s appointment 10 months ago, £300,000 is actually the highest sum United have paid.
Simon Moore is thought to have initially commanded less than that amount (£250,000) when his move from Cardiff City was sealed. Midfielder Samir Carruthers (£220,000), Jack O’Connell (£225,000), James Hanson (£150,000) and Leon Clarke (£100,000) all arrived for less. A fee of £50,000 was reportedly paid to process Jay O’Shea’s loan signing but, with his Chesterfield contract expiring at the end of the season, this also looks like money well spent.
Like Fleck, Moore, Hanson and even Clarke, despite his on-going fitness issues, the Irishman is worth substantially more.
It must also be remembered that United have also sold players with academy graduates Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Aaron Ramsdale and Che Adams, previously of Ilkeston, bringing over £3m into United’s coffers combined. Parkinson might beg to differ but, according to my calculations, that means Wilder has actually raised more than he has spent.
Something which, despite football’s desire to celebrate deep pockets rather than perspicacity, should be applauded. Not derided, dismissed or, in this instance, talked down.
Parkinson is someone I like and admire. Both as a manager and bloke. But, six days ago, he was babbling rubbish. Still, we all have our moments I suppose.