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Wilder on why five years at Oxford United has made him a better manager
“IT’S a great opportunity. I think I can be good for Oxford United, and Oxford United can be good for me.”
This was the message from Chris Wilder when he was unveiled as the U’s boss on a grey Sunday morning in December 2008.
And as he celebrates five years in charge tomorrow, there is no doubt United have made strides under the Yorkshireman.
More than 100 league wins have taken the club up 36 places in football’s pyramid, from mid-table in the Conference to the top of Sky Bet League Two.
While the U’s have improved, so has Wilder.
It has not all been plain sailing, but the testing times have helped mould a manager who is better equipped to deal with problems, according to the man himself.
“There have been some good times and there have been some dark times as well,” he said.
“I’ll always say this – I’m a better manager than when I walked through the door.
“It’s through experience, that’s the one big thing.
“You get put into different places and you have different experiences. Some you handle well, some you don’t handle well.
“Sometimes you have to change after those experiences.”
It does not mean everything has changed.
The 46-year-old said: “I’m just as passionate. The desire and drive in myself is still immense.
“It’s a weekend-wrecker when we don’t get a result and when we do, it is a fantastic job to be involved with.
“I have always said the highs are a lot higher and the lows are a lot lower.
“You take responsibility for everything – the group, the football club.”
- Chris Wilder watches his first home game in charge of Oxford United, a 5-1 win against Ebbsfleet United
The pressure can be immense in an occupation where job security can be virtually non-existent.
Even the most successful managers are only a bad month away from coming under intense scrutiny.
The relationship between supporters and managers can change quickly and there were times last season where it looked as though Wilder’s days at the club could be numb- ered.
But after riding out the storm, he has come back strongly and there are real hopes this could be the campaign he oversees a second promotion.
Fans gave him a warm reception last Saturday, in what was the first home game since he was interviewed for the vacant Portsmouth job.
The game ended on a high, with Dave Kitson heading a late winner to beat Dagenham & Redbridge 2-1 and stay top of the table.
Wilder said: “When you win, the players are great and when you lose, the manager is rubbish – that’s quite true at times.
“I was walking along in Summertown this morning and a nice gentleman on his bike let me pass in front of him.
“I joked to him: ‘Possibly that would not have happened if Kits hadn’t scored in the last minute!”
In such a context, Wilder admits to finding it extremely difficult to switch off.
“It’s with you 24/7,” he said.
“It’s amazing, sometimes you’d just be watching something on TV and then you’ll be thinking about what we can do.
“I think 99.9 per cent of managers are like that, it’s with you all the time and it doesn’t go away.
“You try to leave it sometimes at the front door and get on with your life, but I think that’s a difficult thing to do and most managers would say it’s virtually impossible to shut off and move on to something else.”
For the sake of the vast majority of people connected with the U’s, they will be hopeful this is not the last anniversary Wilder celebrates.
- (From left) Mickey Lewis, Alan Hodgkinson, Andy Melville, Kelvin Thomas and Chris Wilder after the play-off final victory over York at Wembley
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