Chris Wilder: Sheffield United confirm his departure, Paul Heckingbottom takes over as interim manager

Chris Wilder has had weeks of disagreements with Sheffield United board and shared heated exchanges in virtual meetings over recruitment policies and plans for next season; Paul Heckingbottom named interim boss; Blades in action at Leicester on Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League

AP - Chris Wilder
Image: Chris Wilder and Sheffield United's board have been unable to reconcile their differences

Chris Wilder has left his role as manager of Sheffield United after nearly five years in charge, with Paul Heckingbottom named interim boss until the end of the season.

Wilder, who took over at Bramall Lane in May 2016, held meetings with the board on Friday and agreed his imminent departure on Saturday afternoon, and it has now been confirmed that his tenure has come to an end after the two sides failed to reconcile their differences.

"Being manager of Sheffield United has been a special journey and one I'll never forget," Wilder told the club's website.

"I was delighted to be given the opportunity back in 2016 and have been delighted with the success which we have achieved, including two promotions and a highest-ever Premier League finish.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to the Club's accomplishments along the way, including the players, staff and, in particular, the supporters."

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Sheffield United chief executive Stephen Bettis says Wilder's achievements at Bramall Lane will always be part of the club's history

Chief executive officer Stephen Bettis also told the club's website: "What Chris has done at the club in the last four years will remain in history forever.

"It's been an amazing achievement getting us from League One into the Premier League.

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"We had an amazing season last season which surprised a number of people, especially other teams within the league. But Chris will always have that and it's been a great achievement all-round."

Former Leeds United manager Heckingbottom has been in charge of the Blades' U23 coach since joining them last July and will now step up to take over from Wilder until a permanent appointment is made.

Paul Heckingbottom
Image: Paul Heckingbottom takes over as Blades' interim manager

Wilder's assistant Alan Knill will remain at the club and will work alongside former Bournemouth manager Jason Tindall, who will join United's first-team coaching staff on a short-term contract through to the summer.

Sheffield United travel to Leicester in the Premier League on Sunday, in a match live on Sky Sports Premier League from 1pm (kick-off 2pm).

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Proposed changes led to Wilder's exit

Wilder and the board were engaged in heated exchanges earlier this year.

Key to the disagreements has been the club's recruitment policies, with the board wanting Wilder to concentrate on managing the team and less on signing players.

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Speaking on Soccer Saturday, Lee Hendrie says he thought Wilder could bring Sheffield United back up next season and doesn't know who can replace him without 'ripping the roots out'

Wilder, 53, pushed hard for the signings of Aaron Ramsdale (£18m) and Rhian Brewster (£23m) - and would not consider other options - but the board believes they were not what was needed this season to help them stay in the Premier League.

The Blades have spent almost the entirety of this season bottom of the table and are currently 12 points off safety with 10 games remaining.

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Earlier this month, Wilder said he did not know whether he would be Sheffield United manager next season

Wilder had told friends he wanted to continue managing the club in the same ' hands-on' way, but felt he would be unable to do so if he agreed to the changes proposed by the club. Sky Sports News understands Wilder has no intention of starting a new job at another club in the immediate future.

Relations between manager and club soured further in January when no loan signings were made, despite the expectation a midfielder and left centre-back would arrive to bolster Wilder's options.

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Tim Thornton reports issues surrounding recruitment have led to tension between Wilder and the owners of Sheffield United

Wilder had become increasingly frustrated at the club's refusal to increase the wage structure for the first-team squad and his repeated assertions that the squad is full of "Championship players" is understood to have upset the club's owner Prince Abdullah.

United have spent more than £70m since January 2020 and the board has become increasingly frustrated with Wilder playing down the worth of his squad. They feel he is undermining the club's assets by down-playing the available talents, rather than telling people how good his players are.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Southampton's win against Sheffield United in the Premier League

There has also been frustration at boardroom level after United missed out on a number of potential signings, believed to include Ollie Watkins and Tomas Soucek, who have made key contributions this season at Aston Villa and West Ham respectively.

The Blades have lost 22 of their 28 Premier League matches but have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, where they travel to Chelsea next weekend.

Deane: Recruitment hasn't been good enough

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Former Sheffield United striker Brian Deane says recruitment and injuries have played their part in Wilder leaving his job at Bramall Lane

Former Sheffield United striker Brian Deane told Sky Sports News on Saturday evening that it was a "sad day" and an unfair end to Wilder's five years in charge, explaining that the club's recruitment was the main reason for the club's struggles.

"I think the biggest reason [for what went wrong] is the recruitment hasn’t been good enough," said Deane.

"If you spend the kind of sums that the club spent on players, they have to come in and they have to work. So perhaps the recruitment could have been a little bit more universal, a little bit more deep. Asking some players to come in who have never played at that level to be Premier League players is perhaps a big ask."

The club spent over £50m on transfers in the summer - including £23m on forward Rhian Brewster, who has not scored in 20 Premier League appearances, and £18.45m on keeper Aaron Ramsdale, who has just two clean sheets in 28 games.

Deane also said injuries in defence played their part.

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