It's not exactly been a vintage year for Chris Wilder, with promotion plans going drastically awry and the support of a large section of the Oxford United fanbase drifting away. Saturday's goalless draw at home to York was met with yet more calls for the manager's head and chants of 'Wilder out' after the game. But Wilder still has his supporters and Richard Hanna believes that he deserves our support.
So exactly what sort of a manager do we have on our hands? Is Chris Wilder the same as he was the day he walked in to the club as a relative unknown and quickly turned our fortunes around?
I believe he is all that and a whole lot more.
I use Twitter a lot and always try to be positive when tweeting about Oxford United. It’s a very instant format and it's easy to vent spleen when things are not going well. I don’t blame other fans for doing it and won’t make an apology for doing it myself sometimes.
The beauty of social media is that opinions and thoughts can be shared straight away and during live events it can really contribute to the event itself and for those involved. However the flip side I believe is that when things go bad the negative tweets start and texts to radio stations come in and it’s very easy to get that bandwagon rolling and others will quickly find themselves jumping on it. I have noticed that football phone-ins and Twitter is a lot more lively when Oxford lose than when Oxford win. I have decided that ‘no views is good views’. I always try to be positive however I have been accused of giving ‘blind support’ to our manager.
That led me to think about why I do actually give my support, blind or otherwise.
I wrote a piece back in May last year on a very similar subject and don’t want to repeat myself and so will concentrate on what Chris Wilder has achieved this season. It may look at best mediocre but if I could point out a few highlights maybe you will be able to be a bit more positive about the 12/13 season. Bearing in mind there is still 14 games to be played out.
Firstly, we won the opening three games of the season, a great start for Oxford United.
Before the season really got started we had beaten League One Bournemouth in League Cup setting up a tie versus Leeds United.
Chris Wilder has so far been nominated three times for Manager of the Month awards, he may not have been given award but to be considered by people in the games says a lot.
From the 20th November Chris Wilder’s team embarked on a ten-game run of unbeaten matches, scoring 19 goals and ensuring all Oxford fans could have an enjoyable Christmas period (gold dust to long-suffering fans).
Along with the two League Cup games we also enjoyed a run of four JPT games going out on penalties to Southend. But amongst those four games was a 1-0 win against Swindon Town; Chris Wilder has a 100% record when managing Oxford v Swindon. The fact that they were in a higher division this time just made it sweeter.
This season will also be remembered as the season we got to the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in ten seasons.
Chris Wilder has this season been able to give full debuts to Max Crocombe and Tyrone Marsh – something they will never forget and I am sure they will be forever grateful.
Talking about injuries and suspensions may seem like offering excuses for our dips in form but I do feel it’s worth just noting the key injuries (missed two or more games) to the squad that we have had: Clarke, Duberry, Davis, Whing, Leven, Craddock and Smalley. There's seven from memory, but look at the names and think about the types of players they are and the experience they have and contributions they make when fully fit. Leading scorer James Constable has been in and out of form this year, with two red cards (inexplicably v Wimbledon) and has missed seven games through that process.
Another big thing that Wilder has had to deal with as a man and as a man-manager was the passing of Mitchell Cole. I would have no idea what kind of an impact that would have on a group of young, fit footballers but if anyone heard Wilder's interview post-Accrington in the FA Cup they will know it had a profound effect on him as a person and I think he felt himself as a father figure to those footballers and he praised them and supported them as best he could. It should not go unnoticed that that sad passing occurred during our ten-game unbeaten run.
Rest In Peace Mitchell.
And although we have struggled in late January and February there are a couple of signs that we are beginning to rediscover some form with three games unbeaten; indeed our last ten league game form reads Won 4 Drawn 2 Lost 4 – it's as good as it is bad.
So there is a considered opinion as to why I offer my whole support to Chris Wilder, I don’t think this season has been all doom and gloom I don’t think Chris Wilder is destroying this club, I don’t think he is clueless or devoid of ideas and until that changes I will continue to support him.