Chris Wilder respects Paul Hurst as a manager and likes him as a bloke.
But, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Shrewsbury Town, the Sheffield United manager had no qualms about pinning a giant target on his former team mate’s back.
“He supports the other lot,” Wilder said. “He’s a Sheffield Wednesday fan and that’s a fact. I might even paint the away dug-out blue and white just so everybody remembers. Make sure people know which side of the city he’s from.”
Wilder, a lifelong United supporter and Hurst, who took charge of Shrewsbury last month, played alongside each other at Rotherham. The latter spent 15 years at Millmoor, winning back to back promotions under Ronnie Moore, before being released in 2008.
“I really like Hursty,” Wilder (pictured) continued. “He’s a good guy and had a fantastic career at Rotherham. He broke in to the team when I was there and, with the rivalry between the two clubs we support, we used to have a bit off with each other. I think his sides mirror what he’s like as a guy. They are always competitive.”
“I’m not being vicious or vindictive by mentioning who Paul follows,” Wilder added. “Getting a bit of stick, so long as it’s all good natured and doesn’t cross the line, is part and parcel of this job. On Sunday at Chesterfield, when we fell behind, the people behind me weren’t saying ‘Unlucky Chris, keep going and keep your chin up.’ I get flak at lots of places I go.”
Wilder, whose team are unbeaten in 12 League One outings after winning at the Proact Stadium last weekend, started his coaching career with Alfreton before enjoying success with both Halifax Town and Oxford. Hurst, seven years Wilder’s junior, followed a similar route having joined the visitors following spells at Ilkeston, Boston and Grimsby.
“There’s no right way and wrong way,” Wilder, aged 49, said. “If people asked would I rather be a Premier League player earning £50,000 a week, then those days at Halifax I’d probably have been happy to do without. “I’ve known Paul a while and I’ve followed his career. I’m not surprised he’s attracted interest and I think it’s an astute appointment. They’ve gone from someone who is on the up rather than doing the rounds.”
Wilder joined United after lifting the League Two title with Northampton last season. But it was a six year stint at Oxford, where he won promotion from the Conference, which is proving especially useful now as he attempts to deliver Championship football to Bramall Lane.
“I don’t think anybody realises how tough a division that is, the Conference, for ex-league clubs,” he said. “It’s ridiculous how teams raise their games when they come up against you. You draw on all experiences and that’s one, yes. It was actually a bit mad because we had teams playing against us who were spending more money, with less crowds and with no expectation. Oxford probably weren’t in the top four budgets but had the ground, the history and the expectation which heaps pressure on your players.”
“But, as I said back then, all of that counts for nothing,” Wilder said. “It’s a unique league in that regard. The smaller clubs tended to have the advantage because they had no expectation but we paying the money. Yet, when you picked a paper up, everything was focused on Oxford, Luton and Grimsby. I’m sure Paul will tell you the same.”