Paul Devlin says he is “amazed” by the Sheffield United fans criticising manager Chris Wilder.
Devlin played alongside Wilder for the Blades during the 1998/99 season and they were also teammates prior to that at Notts County.
The former winger said that even then, it was clear the United boss would go onto have a career in management and coaching.
Wilder has since enjoyed great success, but has had to work his way up from non-league. The 53-year-old’s time in charge at Bramall Lane has predominantly seen an upward trajectory. And a steep one at that.
Two promotions and a ninth place Premier League finish were achieved in his first four years. Yet this campaign is the first time the South Yorkshire side have had a prolonged period of poor form under Wilder.
They have picked up just one point from their opening seven league games in 2020/21. Ahead of this evening’s match at Chelsea, they sit in 19th position in the table and are the joint lowest scorers with Burnley with only three goals.
Yet Devlin thinks those supporters growing frustrated with Wilder have short memories.
“I’m just amazed the last few weeks some of the comments I’ve read on Twitter questioning him. Absolutely flabbergasts me to be honest,” the 48-year-old told Ingood Nick – The Sheff United Way podcast.
“In my opinion the bloke should have a job for life there, as long as he wants it, for what he’s done.
“I find it difficult and hard to take when I see Sheff U fans questioning him now.”
Paul Devlin has a point
Unfortunately in football, many fans become quickly accustomed to where their team currently is. When Wilder took charge, the Blades were entering their sixth successive year as a League One club.
Not only did he take them out of the division, but they won the title with 100 points. A tenth place Championship finish followed, before a second promotion in three years against the odds in 2018/19.
Now back in the top flight, many tipped United to go straight back down. Not only did they confound those opinions, they never looked in danger of relegation. In fact, for most of the campaign European qualification was more likely.
They eventually finished ninth, with Wilder securing their highest position since 1992. All with a squad whose core had come up through the leagues with him.
They have admittedly spent big, breaking their transfer record six times since promotion in 2019. Three players have arrived for £20m plus. But in comparison to the majority of their top tier rivals, this is still small fry.
Things aren’t going well currently on the pitch, for sure. Yet Wilder has, at the very least, earned the trust of the supporters. It’s not hyperbole to say he would well be the club’s greatest ever manager.