Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah has shared some draw-dropping insight into Chris Wilder and his final months in charge of the Blades.
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The Saudi Arabian businessman spoke exclusively to our partners in the UK at Sky Sports and says that Wilder resigned twice before he eventually left in March by mutual consent with Sheffield United rock bottom of the Premier League table.
Prince Abdullah also claims that Wilder wanted to be paid $5.5 million to resign, which stunned the Blades owner, as the coach had a contract until the summer of 2024.
Wilder, a boyhood Sheffield United fan, will always be a legend at the club for being the man who masterminded their rise from League One to ninth place in the Premier League, but things unravelled pretty quickly in their second season back in the top-flight as relegation is imminent in 2020-21.
What went wrong for Wilder at Sheffield United?
The main area of concern appeared to be that Wilder spoke too honestly in the press about the lack of quality players he had, plus he was too involved in player recruitment as recent signings hadn’t worked out.
“I told him that I am not happy that sometimes after defeats when you talk to the media [and say], ‘I can’t make cake out of sand’ and when he says, ‘all I have is Championship players’. It does not reflect well on the club image,” Prince Abdullah said.
“Those players finished ninth in the table last season, it hurts the club financially. I am OK with Chris taking all the credit when we win but at least take some responsibility when we lose. Don’t, under the pressure of some losses, say ‘everything around me is rubbish’.”
Prince Abdullah said that as far back as early December he flew from Saudi Arabia to England to convince Wilder to stay on and thought those talks were positive.
“I told Chris, if we lose every game until the end of the season, we are not going to fire you. We need you to be our coach,” Prince Abdullah said. “I am not talking about emotion, I just believe you are the best manager to bring us back to the Premier League. I told him recruitment could be better and that we could sit down after the season and talk about how we could make it better.”
Claims that Chris Wilder wanted $5.5 million to resign
Detailing the attempts by Wilder to resign, Prince Abdullah said that the representatives of the manager wanted him to be paid $5.5 million to walk away.
“We were very clear and said we don’t want to fire you but if you want to resign, you can, but we will not pay you the same money as if we were firing you. The emails started between his representatives and our financial guy and we were astonished to find he had asked for £4m to resign. We said, ‘no way are we going to pay you £4m, you are resigning, we are not firing you, why would we have to pay almost one year’s salary?'”
The severance package that Chris Wilder was supposedly asking for is pretty standard when it comes to managers agreeing to move on, but this interview does lift the lid on how tense the situation was behind-the-scenes at Bramall Lane.
Wilder did a superb job to get the Blades promoted to the Premier League but the way things ended will have left a sour taste in his mouth.
There’s no doubt he will be a coach in the Premier League again one day, as Wilder will argue he was not given the financial backing he needed to build on an incredible ninth-place finish in 2019-20.
That said, with big money spent on Rhian Brewster, Lys Mousset, Aaron Ramsdale and others, it’s fair to say that a lot of Wilder’s signings since the Blades were promoted to the top-flight (Sander Berge aside) haven’t worked out.
In short, that poor recruitment record is why Wilder is no longer in charge of his beloved Blades.