The Managers: Danny Wilson

Premier League Clubs Managed: Barnsley (1997-1998), Sheffield Wednesday (1998-2000)

Hailing from Lancashire, Danny Wilson has managed a host of different clubs in various guises. He had overseen promotion and relegation campaigns and has provided the supporters of clubs he’s managed with high and low points. 17 years have passed since his final management role in the top-flight. Although there were notable results during his time with both Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday, a 12th-place finish is the best he has to show for three Premier League seasons in management.

League Cup specialist

As a player, Wilson’s specialist subject was the League Cup. He was part of the Luton Town squad that won the competition in 1988 against Arsenal, scoring in the final. He repeated this trophy success at Wembley three years later as Sheffield Wednesday got the better of Manchester United.

He won 24 caps for Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1992 and played briefly in the inaugural Premier League season for the Owls. Wilson’s most successful statistics at playing level came at Brighton & Hove Albion. He scored 35 goals in 135 appearances between 1983 and 1987.

In 1993, Wilson took his first steps into coaching with Barnsley, leaving Sheffield Wednesday behind to become assistant manager to Viv Anderson. He would continue his playing career at the same time with the Tykes. When Anderson left in the summer of 1994 to link-up with Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough, Wilson made the step-up into management.

In 1996-1997, Danny took Barnsley into the top-flight of English football for the first time in the club’s history. A 2-0 home win over Bradford City secured Barnsley’s place in the Premier League as they came runners-up in Division One to Bolton Wanderers.

Impressing the Owls

Naturally, Barnsley’s sole Premier League campaign was a tough one and they had the worst defensive record in the division. Among the hefty losses were a 6-0 home defeat to Chelsea and a 7-0 demolition by Manchester United at Old Trafford. A strong home record though kept Wilson’s side in the mix to escape relegation until the penultimate weekend of the season.

A 1-0 defeat at Filbert Street to Leicester City ended Barnsley’s Premier League adventure but Wilson’s tactical approach and no-fear attitude impressed the hierarchy at his former club, Sheffield Wednesday. With Ron Atkinson stepping down, a vacancy opened up at Hillsborough and he decided to take it.

It was hoped he could revive the fortunes of the club. Sheffield Wednesday had finished season 1997-1998 down in 16th position and the early signs were promising. There were home wins over champions Arsenal and Manchester United and he also dealt well with the Paolo di Canio situation – suspending the player immediately after he had shoved referee Paul Alcock over during the victory over the Gunners’. The club finished 12th in his first full season and aims for 1999-2000 were to break back into the top half of the table. It didn’t quite pan out like that though.

Poor recruitment

Wilson signed Gerald Sibon and Giles de Bilde in the summer of 1999. Neither player was a qualified success. Also, some of his more established stars were beginning to show their age. They made the worst start in Premier League history, tallying just one point from their opening nine matches and taking an 8-0 pummelling from Newcastle United during that sequence.

At the turn of the New Year, four Sheffield MPs called for Wilson to be relieved of his duties. They included former Home Secretary David Blunkett. A brief rally followed and Danny would win the Manager of the Month award for January 2000. However, after just five victories in the league, he was sacked by the board in March, days after a damaging 1-0 away defeat to already doomed Watford. Sheffield Wednesday were ultimately relegated.

Since then, Wilson’s management career has been in the lower leagues of English football. He did guide Hartlepool United to promotion from League Two in 2007 and even had a second spell back at Barnsley – albeit not as successful as his first spell. His latest role came at Chesterfield which ended in January 2017 with the club losing their League One status by the end of the 2016-2017 campaign.

Danny Wilson was a manager who worked hard in the Premier League but never quite broke through into the top echelon of managers in the British game.

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