Manager of Leeds United's Championship rivals sends stark promotion warning as financial issues highlighted

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Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United will be battling Leeds United in the Championship next season.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder believes that cementing a place in the Premier League is harder than ever for newly-promoted sides as the financial gap to those above grows wider.

The Blades will be fighting it out with Leeds United for a return to the Premier League next season, having been relegated to the Championship in what was a miserable campaign at Bramall Lane. Wilder’s side won just three games and conceded a record 104 goals in their 38 matches, finishing bottom on 16 points.

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That Sheffield United are among the favourites to go straight back up, despite such a dismal season, highlights the gap in quality between the Premier League and Championship and Leeds know only too well that promotion would demand significant investment to remain competitive. But previous failings at Elland Road suggest money is not the only answer and Wilder insists those going up need to find their ‘niche’.

“Sometimes, people don’t understand how difficult it is to even get to the Prem in the first place,” Wilder told “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. 

“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.

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“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'. 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.’”

Leeds also have recent experience of the difficulty in retaining a spot in the Premier League, having been relegated at the end of a miserable 2022/23 season. The Whites burned through three permanent managers, plus interim boss Michael Skubala, eventually having their fate confirmed with a 4-1 defeat at home to Tottenham under Sam Allardyce.

Those in charge at Elland Road cannot be blamed for not investing in the team either, with significant fees spent on the likes of Rodrigo, Diego Llorente and Brenden Aaronson during their three-year stay in the top-flight. The latter can still play his part in a return to Premier League, having agreed to remain at Elland Road for next season after returning from his loan spell at Union Berlin.