From non-league to Premier League – Chris Wilder’s rise up English football inside ten years

The Sheffield lad has worked wonders at his hometown club Sheffield United – earning them promotion to the Premier League less than three years after taking charge when they were drifting in League One.

Saying that, United weren’t just drifting, they were in dire straights just before he arrived.

They finished 11th at the end of the 2015/16 season – arguably the club’s darkest days since they were relegated to the old Fourth Division in 1981.

Their final match of the campaign saw them lose 2-0 at home to Scunthorpe and the players took part in a ‘lap of shame’ after the dismal defeat. Big changes were needed.

And big changes came. Out went Nigel Adkins and in came Stocksbridge-born Wilder who was tasked with getting United back on track on a shoe-string budget.

It seemed an almost impossible task but as Wilder said in a recent interview with talkSPORT, “It’s not just about chucking a load of dough at it and signing players.”

Wilder is living proof that you don’t need to spend excessively to reach the Premier League.

The Blades have spent just over £12.4million on players since the beginning of the 2015/16 season.

Promotion to the top flight has also capped off an excellent personal journey for Wilder that has seen him go from non-league to Premier League inside ten years with Oxford United and Northampton Town being the other main beneficiaries of Wilder’s work.


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He arrived at the Kassam Stadium in December 2008 with Oxford stuck in the rut of the Conference following their relegation out of the Football League in 2006.

The Yellows almost reached the play-offs that season but missed out on the final day.

In fact, they would have snuck in had they not received a five-point deduction for fielding an unregistered player in November 2008 – something that happened before Wilder was manager.

But Oxford meant business the season after and made a fast start.

They had to settle for a play-off spot after finishing third in the league but Wilder guided them to promotion back to the Football League with a 3-1 win over York City in the final at Wembley.

Wilder’s slide down the touchline of the Wembley turf when Alfie Potter slammed home the goal which sealed the victory is still talked about by the Oxford faithful now.

He stabilised Oxford in League Two although a disappointing end to the 2011/12 season saw them slip out of the play-off spots at the end of the season.

But by this stage, his work wasn’t going unnoticed and Wilder was snapped up by Northampton Town in January 2014.

He was joining a club fighting relegation in League Two so it was seen as a strange move.

But after keeping the Cobblers in the division, Wilder began to get a tune out of the players.

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