Belfast Telegraph

Blades of glory awaiting Sheffield United boss Danny Wilson

By Steven Beacom

When former Northern Ireland midfielder Danny Wilson was appointed the Sheffield United manager 12 months ago angry supporters protested outside Bramall Lane.

To them Wilson was the enemy having been a popular player and ex-boss at fierce rivals Sheffield Wednesday.

As the 52-year-old held a press conference to announce his arrival, you could clearly hear hundreds of Blades followers chanting that Wilson was not welcome at their club.

With that negativity swirling around one half of the steel city, many thought Wilson wouldn't last until Christmas but he has remained in charge and is now preparing for a potentially hugely rewarding trip to Wembley with United facing Huddersfield Town tomorrow in the League One Play-off final.

The pressure on Wilson, given his past at Hillsborough, has been there since day one, but with Wednesday gaining automatic promotion to the Championship, the intensity has increased.

There's been shame for the club to cope with too with front man Ched Evans recently jailed for rape.

Managing Sheffield United this season has not been easy.

Could it be fate, though, that has taken Wilson to Wembley — an arena he knows well having scored at the stadium in a 1988 League Cup final victory for Luton Town over Arsenal. He also played there in the League and FA Cup finals five years later against the Gunners while with Wednesday.

There has been much talk about destiny lately with the way Manchester City won the title and Chelsea the Champions League.

Suggest that to Wilson about the Play-off final, though, and he scoffs: “I don't think fate will come into it at all. Every game we've gone into this season we've believed we can win and this is no different, but we'll have to work very hard and if we do we've got a very good chance of coming out on top. That's what I'm thinking about, not fate.”

With Wednesday up already, Wilson is well aware how important tomorrow is to the United support.

He said: “We want the fans to have a great day and they'll have one if the journey's good going back home. It will be a fantastic spectacle, but they'll be as sick as anything if they don't get the right result.”

History is not on the side of United, who finished nine points clear of Huddersfield in League One, as the Blades have lost three previous Play-off finals and Wilson himself cut a disappointed figure when he lost one as boss of Swindon.

Danny, who won 24 caps for Northern Ireland, insists: “We have not touched on the disappointments of the past. It is pointless going down that road. We are only focused on what is ahead.”

Another former Northern Ireland midfielder Damien Johnson will be intent on making sure it is him and Huddersfield celebrating rather than Wilson and Sheffield United.

On loan at Huddersfield from Plymouth, Johnson (pictured), who was a superb player for his country before retiring from international football, has had a difficult campaign with injuries but returned late in the season to help Huddersfield win their play-off semi-final against MK Dons.

Now the 33-year-old Lisburn man is relishing the prospect of running out on the hallowed turf at Wembley.

“It's great for the club to be going to Wembley. They have looked after me and hopefully we can get the result we and our fans want,” said Johnson, who will be a free agent after the weekend with Plymouth releasing him.

Huddersfield's 40 goal striker Jordan Rhodes is likely to be the key figure tomorrow.

He is certain to leave Town after the final, come what may, with several teams chasing him.

Wilson might also depart, but only if Sheffield United fail and the old doubts from disgruntled fans re-surface.

Victory though and the villain of last year when he was appointed will truly become a Bramall Lane hero.

Belfast Telegraph


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