Chris Wilder has confirmed he will use this summer’s transfer window to change the “culture” at Bramall Lane after issuing a thinly-veiled critique of Sheffield United’s previous recruitment strategies.
Wilder, the United manager, insisted potential signings must be judged on ability rather than reputation as he presses ahead with his overhaul of the League One club’s squad.
Appearing to suggest an obsession with attracting big names has prompted many of his predecessors to sign players who are not fit for purpose, Wilder said: “I’ve got to change the mentality and change the culture regarding people we bring in. But I’m not afraid to work with the lads we’ve got because, believe me, there’s quality here. The bits they haven’t got, it’s up to us to drag it out of them.”
United are preparing to spent their sixth season in the third tier of English football since being relegated from the Championship five years ago. Wilder released 10 players and transfer listed another seven, including former Leicester City midfielder Dean Hammond, after being unveiled as Nigel Adkins’ successor on May 12. The majority of those will be replaced by individuals with “knowledge” and “experience” of the lower leagues. James Wilson, previously of Oldham Athletic, became Wilder’s third acquisition of the close season earlier this week.
Hammond, meanwhile, has left United after reaching a settlement over the remaining 12 months of his contract.
“Our recruitment might have to go in a different direction with me in charge,” Wilder said. “I doesn’t bother me that James is not someone who has come in from the Premier League with a glittering career behind him.
“He’s ticked a lot of boxes for us and that is more important. He didn’t have to come in for a week (on trial), he could have signed for someone else straight away. I think that was a real positive from our point of view. We put something in front of him and there was no haggling. It wasn’t a drawn out affair.”
Wilson, aged 27, joined fellow new arrivals Mark Duffy and Chris Hussey in South Yorkshire after agreeing a two year contract with United. Duffy helped Burton Albion finish second - nine places above United - last season. Hussey impressed at Bury following spells with Albion and AFC Wimbledon.
“We’ve talked about the way we want to play and the players need to be athletic and mobile,” Wilder said. “As centre-halves, those are hard to find. Maybe James has underachieved a little bit in his career. Maybe for one reason or another, some in his control and some not, he’s drifted a little bit. He’s been on our radar for quite a while. I like the idea that he’s got a point to prove because we want hungry players coming here.”
“I’ll never comment on what’s gone on before,” Wilder added. “Because there’s no right and wrong. Different managers have different ideas and approaches and that (criticising others) is not something I’d ever do.
“What I will talk about, though, is what we want to do and how we want to go about things. The lads we have brought in, and the ones we will bring in, are indicative of that.”