Sheffield United, the pessimistic bunch that we are, are so negative that any preview of the upcoming season would read like a report on Doomsday. Devastation will strike – our multi-million-pound strike force will suddenly forget how to score – even though they have consistently throughout their careers… Our fairly solid defence will be struck down by an injury crisis of plague proportions and we’ll be left weak in that area (despite having names such as Morgan, Kilgallon, Ehiogu, Halford, Sun, Speed et al, plus any youngsters coming through the ranks).
That point brings us nicely onto another bug-bear of Blades fans – the academy.Â A drain on resources, they say. Never mind producing Billy Sharp et al (whose Â£100,000 transfer fee recieved probably paid for the academy for a year alone), along with Jagielka, Tonge and, to a lesser extent, Montgomery. Granted, the former pair were recruited from other clubs, but if United didn’t have a thriving academy programme that is declared successful by people with a lot more idea than we have, would they have developed to the undoubted level of performance they have reached today? Much this season is expected from Jordan Robertson and Kyle Naughton, and manager Kevin Blackwell has pledged to offer the youngsters their chance in the first team.
So, the summer signings? Well, not wanting to spoil a Blades tradition and dare to be too optimistic, here goes. Sun Jihai – proven Premier League performer, with numerous years of top flight experience with Manchester City and an established international, or a signing purely for United’s commercial interests? The second one, why not. Greg Halford – young and comes with a good reputation in football, on a loan so no outlay involved, or purely signed as a squad player with a long throw? Tempting, but again let’s plump for the second. Matthew Spring? A poor man’s Michael Brown (despite having a better record over previous seasons, looking hungry and actually wanting to come to Bramall Lane). Darius Henderson? Not needed. (Despite effectively swopping a forlorn and inconsistent Hulse for a fit and enthusiastic proven target man. Wait, James Beattie is also injured…).
Darius Henderson and Chris Morgan – pass the anti-depressents…
Predictions have been flooding Blades internet message boards, ranging from the sublime (winning the league by early April) to the frankly ridiculous (second half of the Championship table). Logic would dictate that, after a storming run under Blackwell towards the back end of the season, a season threatened by relegation seems somewhat unlikely, given the quality additions to the squad (oops, sorry – a bit of optimism there – that’d be about as welcome as Wednesday’s Tango Man belly bouncing sections of United’s Kop). In truth, a place among the Play Off positions in May must be the minimum target given to Blackwell, but some more funds could also find their way to the manager. Of course, because he’s worked with Neil Warnock before, he’ll most likely blow it on a waste of space farm in Cornwall. Or has he been guilty of the first part already…
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