Everyone, including Chris Wilder, seems resigned to the fact that he’ll be leaving the club. If and when it does come it shouldn’t be a time for celebration. If a decision can be made now, and he is to go, then perhaps the last three games can be used to recognise what he’s achieved for the club, not to continue the unecessary bullying and personal attacks.
I saw Chris Wilder at the stadium on Thursday while sorting out some tickets for Saturdays game with Wycombe. He cut a sad and lonely figure. I guess that was probably analagous. He was alone and few people walk around with a Cheshire Cat grin on their face when they’re on their own.
My overwhelming urge was to turn the car around and tell him that he should stay positive and that I personally appreciate what he’s done for the club. I didn’t, I’ve had very limited experience of interacting with football folk and it’s generally a disappointing experience.
Saturday was another lacklustre performance and another defeat. The ‘protest’ in the North Stand turned out to be little more than a bed sheet with ‘Wilder Out’ written on it. Protests are only effective if you have numbers to back it up or when the message is so jarring that it forces you to take notice. This protest hardly offered anything new, and with perhaps, half a dozen people involved, it was hardly the Poll Tax riot. I’m not sure why anyone felt the need to say the thing that many have been saying for some months; unless they thought the distribution of the message via bed sheet would prove a tipping point.
As Tommy Craddock flounced off the pitch, I started to think; what is Wilder managing now? He has players who either know they’re going, or are uncertain about their futures or are staying but don’t know who their manager will be. It’s not an environment in which he can easily exact any control. His post-match interview suggested as much; there was no talk of Craddock being unprofessional and no question of ‘dealing with it internally’. It’s not like Craddock needs to hide his disapointment, what will that buy him? A place in the starting line up for three more meaningless games?
Wilder is relying only on the players’ self motivation to play with the necessary effort to win the game. I don’t think this is him ‘losing the dressing room’ which suggests a fundamental collapse of the relationship between player and manager. This seems like limp resignation that the season is over and next season, for the players or manager or both, won’t be at Oxford.
Wilder is stuck in a netherworld between a club manager charged with preparing a team to win games and one without a job. With the season petering out, it’s time for positions to be clarified; if Wilder is to go then let’s announce it and make the Rochdale game a celebration of what he’s achieved. If he’s staying then lets get on with planning for next season. There’s no point in firing him now; it would be unfair and unkind. It would be good to draw a line under the speculation; Lenagan didn’t say that Wilder would be fired if we didn’t make the play-offs as many have said, he said that would be the point at which a decision either way would be needed.
Wilder himself seems to be all but resigned to the fact he’s going or at least that he no longer has any control over his fate. Many of his interviews in recent days have talked about his time in the past tense. He either knows that the game is up, or he’s equally in the dark and just taking the rumour and fan protests as a sign that he’s going. With the season over, there’s little point in keeping the facade going any longer. I’d welcome the opportunity to give Wilder the send off he deserves; the overwhelming emotion of his leaving shouldn’t be one of anger, but of sadness.