Tony Agana, the former Sheffield United centre-forward, believes Chris Wilder’s appointment proves Bramall Lane’s hierarchy have learnt from past mistakes in the managerial transfer market.
Wilder became the 11th person to take charge of the League One club since May 2007 when he was named as Nigel Adkins’ replacement six days ago.
Co-owner Kevin McCabe insisted the 48-year-old possessed the “dynamism” required to transform United’s fortunes following his promotion winning exploits with Northampton Town last term. Agana, who played alongside Wilder in South Yorkshire, described his presence as a triumph of substance over style.
“Chris is the real deal,” Agana said. “Anyone whose team gets 99 points in a season, as his did recently, deserves to be taken seriously because that’s a phenomenal amount. But the biggest thing for me is that Chris knows the terrain. He knows all about the lower divisions, the people in them and what it takes to succeed. We know this is a big club but, equally, we also have to accept where we are at the moment. And, by doing that, it’s easier to put things right.”
Despite impressing at both Scunthorpe and Southampton, Adkins was relieved of his duties after leading United to their lowest league finish since the early Eighties. Wilder, who arrived at Sixfields following spells with Alfreton, Halifax and Oxford, is a markedly different character to his predecessor. And crucially, as McCabe acknowledged during Friday’s official unveiling, his career is on an upward curve.
“Chris has done his apprenticeship the right way if you like,” Agana, who made 149 appearances for United, said. “Yes, he’s a lifelong Blade but that’s an extra. A bonus if you like. First and foremost, he’s damn good at his job. With Knilly (Alan Knill) there as his assistant too, we’re talking about a wealth of experience. That’s one of the things that really stands out for me.”
“It will take Chris time and he’ll need backing and support,” Agana added. “All of the usual stuff a manager needs. He’ll also need to make the players buy into his way of doing things but, knowing him as I do, if they don’t then they’ll quickly realise they won’t be in for an easy ride.”
Like Wilder, Agana was a member of the United team which reached the top-flight in 1990.
“When I first came up from London, I was on my own,” he continued. “Chris was the first person to say come and stay with me. He showed me the ropes and he showed me the city. I never expected that type of welcome and he’s a top, top bloke.
“Chris was a top player too but he’s probably doing even better as a manager. He’s played under some of the best, including Dave Bassett, and I’m sure he’s picked-up bits and pieces from all of them. I’m really excited about the future with Chris being here. It’s a real coup for us because there were Championship clubs in for him and, as far as I’m concerned, he’s the right man for the job.”
*Agana is taking part in Sunday’s charity match between a Blades Legends XI and the Fulham All Stars at Bramall Lane (kick-off 1pm). Brian Deane, Rob Kozluk, Paul Peschisolido, Jimmy Bullard and Chris Morgan are also scheduled to appear. Tickets, priced £7 adults and £3 concessions, are available from the box office, by telephoning 0114 2537 200 (option 1) or via www.sufc.talent-sport.co.uk