Chris Wilder Warns Promoted Premier League Clubs: 'It's Harder Than Ever to Establish a Foothold'

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder cautions newly promoted Premier League clubs—Leicester City, Ipswich Town, and Southampton—that establishing themselves in the top flight is increasingly challenging.

Neil Goulding
Neil Goulding

Last Updated: 2024-06-11

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Chris Wilder, Manager of Sheffield United

Financial Gap and Rising Standards

Wilder thinks even The Foxes and The Saints, who only spent a year in the Championship before returning at the first time of asking, will be surprised by how far England’s elite clubs have advanced in the space of 12 months.

“The Prem has got even tougher,” Wilder told “Every season it moves on and so do most of the other teams in it.”

“Money-wise, the differences are obvious. Especially for those of us who haven’t been up there for 10 years or so before coming back. But the standard of player, right the way throughout, just keeps on rising and rising as well. That, for me, is one of the biggest differences.”

quote icon

That’s just the way it is. I reckon, even from a few years ago now, it’s even more difficult to come up and then stay up.

Chris Wilder

Experience Speaks Volumes

Now in his second spell in charge at Bramall Lane, Wilder turned The Blades into unlikely European contenders after leading them into the Prem four years ago. But they were unable to build on that success and dropped back into the second tier before returning under his predecessor Paul Heckingbottom.

Wilder, who replaced Heckingbottom at the helm in December as United spiralled towards the drop, added: “As more and more money comes in, you clubs who are regarded as in the second rung of the Premier League bringing in players who not so long ago would have been beyond their reach.”

“It wasn’t that long back, for the clubs coming up, that you could look at teams outside of the top six or so and think ‘We’ve got a real chance there'," added Wilder.

"That’s changing, the gap is getting wider, and you have to find other ways of competing which unfortunately we weren’t able to do.

“We take ownership of what happened to us. But what I would say to everyone coming up is ‘Well done, but you’re going to be in for a bigger surprise than maybe you realise.’

Image Credits: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Image Credits: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Adapting to Survive

Wilder’s cautionary words carry extra weight. Burnley and Luton Town, who also went up with The Blades last summer, joining them in the bottom three.

“Sometimes, people don’t understand how difficult it is to even get to the Prem in the first place,” Wilder said. “To do that, you’ve got to have performed remarkably well.

“But with the way football is going, actually being able to stay there is only going to become even more difficult. Most of the teams who come up, unless they’ve got a really rich history there, are going to struggle to compete financially so you’ve got to find other ways of doing that.

“You’ve got to try and be a bit clever. Find a niche.”

Neil Goulding
Neil GouldingSenior Sports Reporter

Neil has been a journalist for longer than he'd care to remember, having written for national newspapers and respected publications for over 25 years. For the last three years he has worked freelance for BBC Sport, working on the production desk as a sub-editor and also as a writer, covering a whole range of sports.