James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Why Bramall Lane’s coaching staff deserve a cult following

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The cult of the coach is alive and kicking.

Players no longer win games. Instead it is the guy in the dug-out who decides the result. Often, given the importance now afforded to previously inconsequential details, through his touchline demeanour or some witty quip during the pre-match press conference.

So it seems bizarre that the very essence of their profession - coaching - is now regarded by many as an irrelevance. Chequebooks, or the size of them to be exact, are what seemingly count. So perhaps Roman Abramovich, the Glazer family and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan should receive all the credit whenever Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City win a trophy? Because they are the ones who have allowed Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola to spend a combined total of £682m this season alone. Imagine the outcry if either of those three had been told to improve their respective squads’ skills, not enter the transfer market, last summer.

Managers, and Chris Wilder is no different, are always one addition short of the perfect roster. Even when ‘the one’ arrives. Yet, for well-publicised reasons, the Sheffield United manager and his staff do focus most of their energy on developing talent. John Fleck, Jack O’Connell and Enda Stevens all arrived at Bramall Lane boasting plenty of potential. Only now, after spending hours on the training ground, is that promise being fulfilled. For precisely that reason, Wilder, his assistant Alan Knill and head of sports science Matt Prestridge deserve admiration and respect. They utilise ability, intuition and intelligence. Not simply pounds, shillings and pence.

Nevertheless, in order to keep pace with the clubs they are challenging, United must spend this summer. More than they did the last. Huge changes are not necessary. Those already in situ will benefit from spending a season in the Championship. Indeed, given recent research detailing the importance of stability, the temptation to complete numerous deals should be resisted at all costs. Quality not quantity is required.

Naturally, there will be a clamour for United to ditch their present policy and recruit top-end names instead. As someone recently tweeted me: ‘If you shop at a car boot sale...you end up with other peoples’ junk.’ Which is a tad harsh on the aforementioned trio. But an accurate barometer of the prevailing mood.

Chris Wilder has shown he can spend wisely and also coach: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Wilder has shown he can spend wisely and also coach: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

How much money, then, do United make available?

The answer, because Wilder has earned this privilege, is the maximum they can afford and creatively generate. Not the amount they wish they had.

The likes of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola can afford to buy the best ready-made talent

The likes of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola can afford to buy the best ready-made talent