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Why Chris Wilder is the only choice for manager

Written by Charles Jones on 30th June 2021

Charles explains why the Whites should look no further than the ex-Blades manager.

Scott Parker has left Fulham, and so begins the unenviable task of finding a replacement.

However, if Tony Khan has been paying any attention to English football over the past five years, there should only be one man he’s considering right now, and that’s Chris Wilder.

Not Steve Cooper, not Eddie Howe and certainly not Neil Lennon. The only man Fulham should even be considering right now is the former Sheffield United boss, and here’s why.

His character

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In terms of character, Wilder is everything Scott Parker isn’t.

Week after week in the Premier League, we heard Parker feeding us lines about fine margins costing us and that the team weren’t getting the results they deserved, continuing to back his underperforming player as we slowly but surely sleepwalked towards relegation.

Wilder doesn’t make excuses in quite the same way.

After Dean Henderson made a major blunder against Liverpool back in September 2019, Wilder didn’t mollycoddle him in the way Parker did with our players last season when mistakes were made, he told him that he needs to be better, and lo and behold, he stepped up.

“If he wants to play for the top teams, he wants to play for England then he needs to do better. He needs to concentrate more. It’s a disappointing day for him. I am not going to put my arms around him. Simply he needs to do better,” Wilder said.

Now, it may seem harsh as a newly-promoted club to lambaste your 22-year-old on-loan goalkeeper after a mistake against the champions-elect, but the tough love seemed to help Henderson and he’s not looked back since, going onto become a bona-fide England international and a real challenger for David De Gea’s number one shirt at Manchester United.

Perhaps this type of attitude is kick up the backside we need in order to light a fire underneath a squad that has been underperforming for far too long.

His style

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How often do you get the chance to hire a true revolutionary in football? Once in a generation if you’re lucky, and Fulham have that chance now with Wilder.

Don’t be fooled by the fact this is a bloke called Chris from South Yorkshire who drinks copious amounts of Peroni. This man is nothing short of a tactical genius.

Wilder hasn’t rewritten the book on how football should be played, but he’s certainly added his own chapter to it with his overlapping centre-backs.

Imagine if a Brazilian or an Argentine came to England and took a team from League One to the top-half of the Premier League by using centre-backs that double up as wingers.

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If a manager called ‘Cristiano Wildinho’ did that they’d be lauded as one of the greatest tactical minds on the planet, but because this is a man who used to manage Halifax Town he doesn’t get the adulation he deserves.

“The way that he manages to set up his team awakens interest in me to learn from him.”

“I would say the Sheffield United head coach is someone with new ideas and I have seen very few people with these ideas.”

“I saw things in Sheffield United that I wanted to develop and I couldn’t do it, I I don’t know the history of the head coach, but he has done very well.”

Those words were from Marcelo Bielsa.

Yes, Marcelo Bielsa, the football obsessive who the British media have spent the last three years fawning over, saying that Wilder has brought something to this game that he’s never seen before, something that he wanted to develop himself, but for all of Bielsa’s genius, he couldn’t crack Wilder’s code.

His adaptability

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Wilder is about so much more than just overlapping centre-backs as well. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of his management how good he is at improving players and how adaptable he is.

The Blades side that was promoted in 2019 played a 5-2-1-2 with Mark Duffy in a number 10 role, but when the Yorkshire outfit were promoted he had to switch to a more pragmatic 5-3-2 turning John Lundstram, who could barely get a game in the Championship, into one of the Premier League’s most industrious and effective midfielders in 2019/20.

Wilder’s career at Sheffield United is littered with stories of players who have improved ten-fold under his management.

David McGoldrick went from being released by League One-bound Ipswich to being a genuinely undroppable player in the top flight, he transformed Chris Basham from a League One right-back into a centre-back who once made Alan Shearer’s Premier League Team of the Season.

In fact, he even had many of us Fulham fans regretting not keeping hold of Ollie Norwood just months after we turned down the chance to sign him permanently.

The harsh reality is that some of our players desperately need to get back to playing their best stuff.

Imagine if Ivan Cavaleiro got back to the level we saw from him at Wolves? What would next season bring if Anthony Knockaert got back to the standards he set at Brighton? These are exciting players who are yet to reach top gear in a Fulham shirt, and Wilder could be the man to unlock that.

His CV

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“We will hire a new Head Coach who is capable of achieving our goal of promotion and will be committed to Fulham and its supporters,” Shahid Khan wrote in his statement after Parker’s departure.

Khan wants a manager who is capable of achieving promotion. Well, how about a gaffer who has done it three times in his last four seasons outside of the top-flight?

Wilder has led Northampton to a League Two title in 2016, before achieving two promotions in three years with Sheffield United, taking his boyhood club back to the promised land of the Premier League.

These promotions were no mean feat either. He joined Northampton with the club in the relegation zone and left amid huge financial difficulties, with the players not being paid their wages for two months of that season.

Disregard last season’s coronavirus-affected campaign with the Blades and Wilder has enjoyed season after season of success so far, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue with Fulham.

In the famous words of Rio Ferdinand: “Get the contract out, put it on the table. Let him write whatever numbers he wants on there and let him sign it.”

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