Sheffield United lost a manager yesterday.
But, after naming Chris Wilder as Nigel Adkins’ replacement, they rediscovered their identity.
The 48-year-old, who led Northampton Town to the League Two title last season, is the right guy at the right time. Someone happy to embrace new ideas and technology but whose approach is underpinned by supposedly old school values like hunger, desire, passion and bloody hard work. Four things which used to be synonymous with Bramall Lane. But, for some reason or another, have been conspicuous by their absence on the pitch of late.
Adkins, a thoroughly decent individual who always gave his utmost throughout 11 difficult months in charge, demanded “endeavour”, “grit” and “resilience”. But the message, perhaps obscured by his unflinchingly positive outlook on life, seldom appeared to get through. Rest assured, it will be rammed home by Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill.
Sheffield United are a working class football club. They should be blue collar and proud.
But, after a brief flirtation with the top-flight nine years ago, those tasked with leading this great sporting institution appear to have become obsessed by celebrity. Easily seduced by fashionable and supposedly glamorous names. At great cost, it must be said, both in terms of results and the balance sheet.
There is nothing wrong with being a little rough around the edges. Egalitarian rather than aristocratic even though, in this day and age, to be labelled as such is regarded as a slur.
Greats like Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby and Jock Stein were proud socialists. Their teams reflected this.
At Celtic Park, where the latter delivered one European Cup and 10 Scottish championships, they still sing about knowing their history. United, bizarrely, were in danger of forgetting theirs. Until now that is.
The last truly successful squad to grace Bramall Lane wasn’t stuffed to the gills with flash players or selfish individuals. No, it was the likes of Neil Shipperley, Nick Montgomery, Derek Geary and Chris Morgan who reached the Premier League.
Wilder has been appointed on the basis of his managerial achievements. But, as a former player and supporter, he also ‘gets’ United. Knows what makes them tick. Values their heritage and roots.