Character, commitment and collectivity are, according to the Chris Wilder handbook for footballing success, three essential ingredients of any effective team.
But, as he begins the process of overhauling Sheffield United’s squad, the League One club’s new manager warned Bramall Lane’s home dressing room could still be a pretty quarrelsome place next term.
“We are going to have rows along the way,”Wilder said. “There’s going to be discussions and fallings-out.
“But we do it for the right reasons - to win games of football on a regular basis and be successful at the end of the season. So long as it’s for that reason, and everyone is pulling in the same direction, then I think that’s fine.”
At first glance, Wilder’s words appear to be at odds with his desire to establish “a close, tight-knit” group of players. On closer inspection, however, they reveal plenty about the type of person he wants to sign after releasing 10 and transfer listing another seven members of the group which finished 11th in the table last season. Individuals with big hearts, big personalities and attitudes to match.
“We want to create a group of players who know for nine or ten months, they are coming to be together through thick and thin,” he continued. “Different battles and challenges. There has to be harmony between them and competitiveness between them. I want them to fall out for the right reasons and get on with each other for the right reasons. But that dressing room has to be together from the day we walk back into the building until the day we go for our summer holidays.”
Mark Duffy and Chris Hussey, who became the first new arrivals of the Wilder-era after arriving in South Yorkshire last week, are both expected to help create the type of creative dynamic the 48-year-old wants behind the scenes.
Duffy, named in the PFA’s divisional team of the year after helping Burton Albion win promotion, was described as “brave” having agreed a contract until 2018. Hussey, meanwhile, impressed coaching staff with his willingness to confront the “difficult” challenges a 46 game season presents.
Nevertheless, if voices are raised before, during or after fixtures, Wilder will always have the final word. As assistant manager Alan Knill explained soon after his appointment last month, opinions will be sought but United is not about to become a direct democracy.
“We want it to be fun, we want people to think and contribute,” he told the media. “We want people to look forward to coming to work. But that’s what the training ground will be, make no mistake about it. A place of work.”
Wilder, who held a further round of contract talks with George Long and his representative over the weekend, is prepared to use the loan market to bolster the options at his disposal. But United’s recruitment policy will still be based around permanent deals.
“I am not a big fan of month to month loans, but you had to utilise the system when it was there,” Wilder said.