Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson believes Chris Wilder deserves all the credit for transforming Sheffield United’s fortunes and earning himself the chance to manage in the Premier League for the first time.
Wilder, who turns 52 at the end of September, was named the League Managers’ Association manager of the year in a vote by his peers across all the divisions last season.
A life-long Blades fan, Wilder has done things the hard way through stints at Alfreton, Halifax, Oxford and Northampton before taking over at Bramall Lane in 2016, with the club then in League One.
Following two promotions, Wilder now has the opportunity to pit himself against England’s best – and it is an opportunity which former England manager Hodgson believes is well earned.
“I don’t think that (age) has any bearing on his capabilities as a coach today,” said Hodgson, who, having just turned 72, is one of the Premier League’s elder statesmen.
“What interests me more is what he has done since he has come to Sheffield United, with their two promotions, which is an incredible record, and the fact that his team play the football they do, which is going to ask a lot of questions of the opponents they meet. He needs a lot of credit for that.
“At the end of last season, he received the LMA (Sir Alex Ferguson) trophy for manager of the year, which was voted for by peers rather than by media or sponsors and I think that is the highest accolade you can receive at the end of the season, so that says everything.
“It must be an achievement to be proud of, but it speaks volumes of course for the work that he’s done, because you don’t get that award unless people really respect work you have done.”
Hodgson feels results on the pitch are the only real test of a manager’s ability, regardless of how long they have been in the dugout.
“I had no idea what his age is because that is something which would be irrelevant to me, as is the ‘young manager versus the old manager’,” he said at a press conference.
“I think it should be quite simply ‘good manager or bad manager’. Age really has got nothing to do with it, as (Jose) Mourinho proved at a very young age by piling up all the trophies that he did and that has been carried on by people like (Pep) Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
“There are of course examples on the other side – the ‘old man’ Wilder, he is doing well.”
Palace opened their new Premier League campaign with a goalless draw at home to Everton.
Hodgson hopes his side can again produce results on the road, having managed nine away wins last season.
“It (away form) is to do with how open the game gets and the type of players that we have are suited to the counter-attacking game- opponents come forward and leave space behind and they’re quite good at exploiting those spaces,” Hodgson said.
“As the season wore on we became better at scoring goals and taking our chances. I am hoping that is going to continue and get even better this season.”