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Our best bets for Tuesday's Checkatrade Trophy games1

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Tom Carnduff has looked through the team news and unearthed some value for the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night.

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Former AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley finds himself as the favourite to replace Harry Kewell at Notts County.

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The Premier League have announced Susanna Dinnage as their new chief executive5

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Chris Wilder: The man destined to take Sheffield United back to the top

Chris Wilder celebrates after victory over QPR
Chris Wilder celebrates after victory over QPR

The full-time whistle blows to signal the end of another season, and the majority of the 21,445 Bramall Lane crowd leave disappointed following another defeat.

Paddy Madden and Tom Hooper are on target as Scunthorpe wrap up three points. The result leaves Sheffield United finishing in 11th at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, a mile away from their pre-season aspirations of the title.

It was the club's lowest league position since 1983, leaving them eight points adrift of the play-offs and bringing an end to Nigel Adkins' 11-month spell in charge.

United had hit what felt like rock bottom and their next appointment was crucial. The Blades had already spent five seasons in England's third tier, with a play-off semi-final their closest attempt at returning to the Championship. They needed to find the man to get them moving back in the right direction.

In League Two, Northampton had caught the eye following their finish with 99 points. The achievement was remarkable, especially given how they were close to falling out of the Football League altogether just two seasons earlier.

The man who had spearheaded their climb was Chris Wilder. The club were in the midst of financial trouble, with questions focused on if Northampton could finish the season, let alone what they could win at the end of it.

HMRC issued a winding up order over an unpaid tax bill, leaving Town just hours from ceasing to exist.

Wilder battled through, bringing out the best of his squad to continue to secure maximum points in entertaining fashion.

Chris Wilder with the Sky Bet League Two title following Northampton's 99-point season
Chris Wilder with the Sky Bet League Two title following Northampton's 99-point season

Speaking to the Telegraph back in 2016, Wilder said: "It isn’t right what happened. It isn’t right the players didn’t get paid. It isn’t right the staff weren’t paid for three months.

"It isn’t right the supporters had to see their club go to the edge. But we all knew it was none of our fault. And what I think we can be really proud of is we never used it as an excuse. We never got the white flag out."

It summed up his mentality and his desire for success. The players wages were paid by the Professional Footballers' Association, but Wilder and his staff went unpaid during the difficult months.

A Blade at heart, Wilder was the man that United needed to end their years of misery. Days after that defeat to Scunthorpe, he accepted the job in South Yorkshire, much to the delight of the Bramall Lane faithful.

His first summer saw the signings of Mark Duffy, John Fleck, Jack O'Connell and Leon Clarke. Players who could make an impact at this level, players who would fit into the way Wilder wanted to play.

The enthusiasm from the off-season felt short-lived though. The 2016/17 campaign kicked-off with four defeats from five and an exit from the EFL Cup with a home defeat to League Two Crewe.

The pressure was beginning to mount already. It was early days, but there was the feeling that they could be set for another season of struggle.

Instead, Wilder's leadership skills took over; in a time of great doubt, his ability to bring out the best in his squad came to the fore. United would go onto lose just three more games after that, ending the season with 100 points and a +45 goal difference. It was another remarkable transformation.

Billy Sharp hit the net 30 times, only the second season in his 20 playing professional football that he had done so. It was a testament not only to his talent in front of goal but Wilder's brand of football, one which had brought the belief back to Bramall Lane and to those pulling on the shirt.

Billy Sharp lifts the Sky Bet League One trophy
Billy Sharp lifts the Sky Bet League One trophy

Not only had they gone up at the first time of asking, but they had done so in real style. It sent a message to the rest of the Sky Bet EFL: the Blades are back and a team to fear as they hunt for the Premier League.

It was also a record-breaker for Wilder. He became only the second manager to achieve 99 points in two different league seasons - Kevin Keegan being the other with Fulham and Manchester City.

Back in the Championship, they picked up where they had left off the previous season, despite two defeats in their first three games. A run of six wins from seven, including a 4-2 victory in the first Steel City derby in five years, put United top.

Wilder's men failed to match those results in the second-half of the season. They would eventually finish 10th, a respectable return when the dust had settled. While there may have been some disappointment that they couldn't maintain their charge for a second consecutive title, it was a reminder of the future under their current manager.

One of the main stories from that season though was the emergence of David Brooks, with the youngster scoring three and assisting six in all competitions.

The attacking midfielder was actually set to miss out on involvement with the first-team squad for the season, the club believing that a loan move to then-League Two club Chesterfield might be best for his development.

Instead, strong performances in pre-season made his case for a spot in the United squad a strong one, having made the occasion appearance in the EFL Trophy the season beforehand.

Brooks would soon emerge as a fans' favourite. Scoring his first goal against Yorkshire rivals Leeds would obviously sit well with any Blade, with a Wales call-up and an extended deal highlighting his rise to the top.

David Brooks in action for Sheffield United against Leicester
David Brooks in action for Sheffield United against Leicester

He was obviously a player with talent, but Wilder's attacking philosophy helped him to flourish in a tough division. He was a creative outlet for United, and his lengthy absence through illness was a big blow.

Brooks moved on to Bournemouth in July, joining for a record £11.5m, the biggest fee that Sheffield United have received.

Wilder continues to adapt though, and his side have probably not received the praise they deserve as their achievements continue to go under the radar.

The attacking nature of Wilder's philosophy has hit new heights this season, with a no-fear approach giving them the joint-best home record in the Championship with the second-highest tally of goals in front of their own supporters.

They also find themselves as 9/2 second-favourites with EFL title sponsors Sky Bet to win the Championship.

The fluidity of the system allows the likes of John Fleck to dominate the midfield area, with the usual Scotland squad announcement being met with the shouts of 'where's Fleck?'.

We've also seen Chris Basham adapt to an unusually attacking role for a centre-back, often seeing him in the opposition area as much as his own.

It's the unique side to 'Wilder-ball' that catches the opposition out. Nobody in the home section of Pride Park expected to see Basham tap-in unmarked at the back post from open play, let alone the Derby team.

Fleck's wonderful run from midfield was the focal point, but it allowed Basham to break away and overlap Kieron Freeman on the right into the six-yard box.

It shows the bravery that the players not only possess, but are allowed to express on the pitch when it matters. That makes Wilder's teams stand out from the rest, and ultimately leads to success.

Chris Basham in action against QPR
Chris Basham carries an attacking threat for the Blades

There are, of course, questions that surround this Sheffield United squad. They were in a similar position last season but couldn't mount a promotion push in the end. Do they have the depth and the quality to maintain their run?

January will be an uncertain month for Wilder in terms of recruitment. An on-going battle between Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who share ownership of the club, is set to be resolved in court.

Off-the-field issues haven't prevented success in the past, though. This one may be tiny in comparison to the others that Wilder has faced on his managerial journey so far, but previous experience will put him in a strong position once again.

The stats show the drastic improvement in United's fortunes since his arrival and how they'll only continue to get better under his guidance.

Friday's derby will be another key signpost in his journey back at his boyhood club. Within the hostile walls of Bramall Lane, it's a real opportunity to demonstrate the shift of power in the Steel City.

One thing is certain: with Wilder at the helm, it's only a matter of time before we see Sheffield United back as a Premier League side once again.


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