Inside track: West Brom contender Chris Wilder has more than one tactical trick up his sleeve

Chris Wilder is a leading candidate for the Albion job.

Chris Wilder.
Chris Wilder.

But while he is best known for his successful spell with Sheffield United, the 53-year-old also did hugely impressive jobs at Oxford and Northampton prior to his move to Bramall Lane.

We spoke to journalists Dave Pritchard and James Heneghan – who covered the U’s and the Cobblers while Wilder was in charge – to get their take on the boss, his tactics and whether his appointment would be good for Albion.

“Chris Wilder will always be very fondly remembered at Oxford for getting them out of the Conference,” said Dave Pritchard, who worked as the Oxford Mail’s chief sports writer.

“They had four seasons down there and if they didn’t get out in 2010, there were big fears about what would happen.

“He really got them out of a tricky situation and lit the fire for what followed.

“He established them as a Football League club and had them competing for promotion again. He worked miracles.

“When he left for Northampton, people felt it was a strange move.

“But he used the metaphor ‘it felt like the car was driving itself to work’.

“Five years at a club is a long time and he needed a new challenge.

“And he went on to do an even more impressive job there, first saving them from relegation and then winning the league with them.”

Some Albion fans have been concerned Wilder is too reliant on the 3-5-2 system he used at Sheffield United, with supporters wanting a tactically flexible coach.

But Pritchard said he is a boss that has multiple systems up his sleeve.

“Other than a handful of games, I can’t remember him ever playing with a back three at Oxford,” he continued.

“He was more a 4-4-2 man. But this was a long time ago.

“I think he is a horses for courses manager. And he liked his wingers at Oxford.

“I think he can be a lightening rod for clubs.

“He is really good at getting people together and singing off the same hymn sheet.

“The Baggies have obviously just been relegated but he is someone who is very good at rallying the troops. He has also had success in the Championship before.

“He is also very good in one-off games, like derbies. Players would often talk about his attention to detail and how good he was at spotting little things that can make all difference.”

James Heneghan, who is the Northampton reporter for the Chronicle & Echo, believes Wilder will be an excellent appointment for Albion.

“Chris Wilder was quite flexible with his tactics during the season I covered him,” he said.

“He started the campaign playing a 4-2-3-1, which was quite successful.

“He then signed a couple of strikers in the January and went more direct to a 4-4-2.

“They were by far and away the best team in the league and played some really good stuff.

“I think Alan Knill (Wilder’s long-term assistant boss) is considered the tactical brains behind it all and Wilder is a very good motivator and man-manager, players loved playing for him.

“He might well go 3-5-2 at Albion but he’s definitely open to playing different systems and being adaptable, I think a lot depends on the players he has at his disposal.

“I think he’d be a great appointment.”

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