IT’S ALL COB­BLERS

Chris Wilder tells us why he’s swapped Ox­ford for Northamp­ton

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Stuart Ham­monds

FOR many it seems one of the strangest moves of the sea­son, Chris Wilder swap­ping a pro­mo­tion chal­lenge with Ox­ford for the club a short trip up the A43, but miles be­low them in League Two.

Northamp­ton might have been six points adrift of safety when he re­signed from the club sit­ting sixth last Sun­day night.

But Wilder’s ar­rival at Six­fields is a con­sid­er­able step up from his first foray into full-time man­age­ment at Halifax Town, where they didn’t even have a foot­ball. “We’ve got 15 here,” laughs Wilder. “Al was hav­ing a moan so we’ve been able to buy a few more!”

The “Al” he refers to rep­re­sents another step up. When Wilder’s six-year spell at The Shay ended in May 2008, he joined Bury as as­sis­tant to old pal Alan Knill, be­fore drop­ping back into the Con­fer­ence to man­age Ox­ford six months later. At Northamp­ton the roles are re­versed.

“He’s mak­ing my tea now,” the 46-year-old jokes, which is some­thing he’s not been able to do much in re­cent times at the Kassam Sta­dium, de­spite the U’s lofty league po­si­tion.

As part of the terms of the com­pen­sa­tion pack­age agreed be­tween Cob­blers chair­man David Car­doza and United chief Ian Le­na­gan, Wilder can’t say much about his exit, nor re­turn to sign his old play­ers or staff, in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

But it is com­mon knowl­edge that re­la­tions be­tween the Wi­gan War­riors owner and Wilder had never been as cor­dial as with Kelvin Thomas, the pre­vi­ous chair­man who ap­pointed the man­ager in De­cem­ber 2008 with Ox­ford 13th in the Con­fer­ence and slid­ing to­wards re­gional foot­ball and pos­si­ble ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Given per­mis­sion to speak to Portsmouth be­fore Christ­mas, Wilder was out of con­tract at the end of the sea­son and was look­ing for se­cu­rity of con­tract that Le­na­gan was not pre­pared to dis­cuss de­spite keep­ing his side – of­ten topped up with youth team schol­ars – in a po­si­tion that de­fied their bud­get.

He had also been linked with for­mer play­ing clubs Sh­effield United and Notts County, but would have been pre­pared to re­turn to an am­bi­tious Non-League out­fit – which is what cyn­ics say he could soon be man­ag­ing by junc­tion 15a of the M1.

Wilder, hav­ing signed a three­and-a-half year deal, says he feels “rein­vig­o­rated”. Not least by mak­ing five sign­ings – strik­ers Alan Con­nell and Emile Sin­clair, mid­fielder Ricky Raven­hill, free agent Leon McSweeney and ex­tend­ing the loan of Gilling­ham for­ward An­to­nio Ger­man – which could have seen him re­place Harry Red­knapp as Sky Sports’ trans­fer car win­dow man.

“I was think­ing that the other day,” he smiles. “I don’t think I’ve ever made so many sign­ings. It’s been pretty quiet over the last two years, with not much hap­pen­ing at my pre­vi­ous club through the sea­son and all our busi­ness done at the start.

“I’m en­joy­ing it. The peo­ple at the club have been fan­tas­tic and I am en­joy­ing man­ag­ing.

Not greedy

“I know peo­ple who have worked here be­fore, like Mal­colm Crosby and Ian Samp­son, and the one thing that in­ter­ested me re­gard­ing this po­si­tion was the chair­man. He’s al­ways backed his man­agers. He’s 100 per cent a foot­ball guy, he takes an in­ter­est in the game and wants to do well.”

With a wife and two young daugh­ters to sup­port, Wilder – un­der­stand­ably – wanted to know where his fu­ture lay and an­swers weren’t forth­com­ing at Ox­ford.

“Peo­ple have talked about me bang­ing on the chair­man’s door about my se­cu­rity, and it wasn’t purely about that, but that has to be a part of it,” says Wilder, who was the third long­est-serv­ing man­ager in the top 92 be­hind Arsene Wenger and Ex­eter’s Paul Tis­dale.

“I’m not money ori­en­tated. I’m not a greedy guy, and any­one ques­tion­ing my loy­alty should re­mem­ber I had an op­por­tu­nity to take a job in the Foot­ball League six months af­ter tak­ing over at Ox­ford, but I stayed for less money. I had two or three op­por­tu­ni­ties to jump, but I didn’t.

“Maybe the last year-and-a-half I have been look­ing per­son­ally. Ev­ery­one talks about the club hav­ing a de­ci­sion whether to reem­ploy me or not last sum­mer af­ter fin­ish­ing ninth in League Two. I ap­pre­ci­ated and re­spect that they wanted to of­fer me a new deal back then, but I had a de­ci­sion as well.

“There was part of me that felt it was time for me to move aside and let some­body else have a go. Go­ing into this sea­son, even though we’ve done fan­tas­ti­cally well, per­son­ally there was a lit­tle nag in me that I’d been there a long time and maybe a change was round the cor­ner.

De­ci­sion

“You can’t al­ways dic­tate when that change will be. Some­times it’s taken out of your hands and some­times there are op­por­tu­ni­ties. This is one that came up.”

And Wilder does see it as an op­por­tu­nity, de­spite the Cob­blers’ lowly po­si­tion just eight months af­ter con­test­ing a play-off fi­nal at Wem­b­ley. “I’m happy with the de­ci­sion I’ve made, and I’ll be more happy when we’ve won a few games and started pulling a few teams back into us, be­cause I think that will hap­pen,” says Wilder.

“Other teams down there will look at the play­ers we’ve brought in and they’ll see that we are se­ri­ous about stay­ing in this league. I would be ex­pect­ing a lit­tle bit of a charge from us.”

Has he looked at the cal­en­dar for the fi­nal day of the League Two sea­son yet?

“Of course I have,” he says, know­ing a first meet­ing with his old em­ploy­ers is sched­uled for Six­fields on Satur­day, May 3.

“There was al­ways go­ing to be some­thing on it. I hope that day ends in de­light for both sets of sup­port­ers, where we are in a po­si­tion that we’ve se­cured League Two sta­tus and my for­mer club have kicked on.”

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