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Sheffield United owner’s ruthless takedown of Chris Wilder and claims over £4m payoff demand

Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah has laid the reasons for Chris Wilder’s Bramall Lane exit firmly at his former manager’s door.

And in a damning statement about the situation surrounding the former Blades’ boss’ exit, he has claimed that Wilder twice attempted to resign and demanded a £4million severance package.

Wilder, who led the club from League One to the Premier League, left the club by mutual consent earlier this month.

The boyhood fan departed by mutual consent with the side, whom he led to a ninth place finish on their top-flight return last season, rock bottom of the table.

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Now Prince Abdullah has publicly stated that Wilder had been eyeing the exit for over three months.

And he has also declared that he criticised the former manager’s moves in the transfer market to Wilder, and was planning to bring in a Director of Football to oversee recruitment – a decision that played its part in Wilder’s exit.

Chris Wilder left Sheffield United earlier this month
Chris Wilder left Sheffield United earlier this month

“In December, Stephen [Bettis, Sheffield United CEO] told me that Chris had talked about resigning. I was really worried and I knew that a phone call or a Zoom call would not do the trick, I had to sit with him,” Prince Abdullah told Sky Sports.

“I told him recruitment could be better and that we could sit down after the season and talk about how we could make it better.

“I told him that I am not happy that sometimes after defeats when you talk to the media [and say], ‘I can’t make cake out of sand’ and when he says, ‘all I have is Championship players’.

“It does not reflect well on the club image. Those players finished ninth in the table last season, it hurts the club financially.

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“I am OK with Chris taking all the credit when we win but at least take some responsibility when we lose. Don’t, under the pressure of some losses, say ‘everything around me is rubbish’.”

Former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder
Prince Abdullah wasn’t happy with some of Wilder’s conduct

Wilder’s exit was widely reported and speculated on for over 48 hours before any official announcement from the Blades.

It was widely known that there was growing tension between the manager and the Blades board – as summarised by our man David Anderson.

Prince Abdullah continued: “Chris explained in a one-hour call why he wanted to resign. He said that he felt the team needed a change, a new voice.

“We were very clear and said we don’t want to fire you but if you want to resign, you can, but we will not pay you the same money as if we were firing you.

“The emails started between his representatives and our financial guy and we were astonished to find he had asked for £4m to resign.

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“We said, ‘no way are we going to pay you £4m, you are resigning, we are not firing you, why would we have to pay almost one year’s salary?’”

H.R.H Prince Abdullah took sole charge of the Blades in September 2019
H.R.H Prince Abdullah took sole charge of the Blades in September 2019

Prince Abdullah was also damning about some of Wilder’s moves in the transfer market – notably his spending on strikers.

Rhian Brewster joined from Liverpool in a potential £23million deal last summer but has failed to score.

David McGoldrick is the club’s top scorer this term with £20million Oli McBurnie struggling too, in a side that have found the net just 16 times altogether in the Premier League.

Rhian Brewster has struggled at Sheffield United since arriving for big money
Rhian Brewster has struggled since arriving for big money

“We also talked about the January transfer window just before the Southampton game. I felt good after the meeting and I gave him assurances. I went back to Saudi, I felt good,” added Prince Abdullah.

“Then after we lost to [Crystal] Palace at the beginning of January, Stephen called me and told me Chris wanted to resign. I felt it was my mistake because we recruited how Chris wanted, we spent over £120m.

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“Liverpool and Tottenham have two forwards, we have six. The new coach may not want six forwards and we spent around £60m on them.”

Now the United owner is resigned to relegation, and while Paul Heckingbottom is currently in caretaker charge, the Blades are working to find a long-term solution in their quest for an immediate top-flight return.

“Our first priority is to get back to the Premier League. All options are open,” he said.

“We will make a decision soon but we want to see how the team performs for the last eight or nine games of the season.

“We want a coach who will be involved in recruitment but we have to learn from the mistakes we made before.”

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