It’s not only on the field that Sheffield United are getting it right. In order off the field, too. The first tends to follow the second. Amazing that!
Of course, you don’t hear much about the boardroom when results are good. Just the way the occupants will like it.
But credit where due. Teams who prosper against a background of disharmony – Leeds United and their excellent boss Garry Monk being the best current example – are exceptions to the rule.
Not that Bramall Lane’s governance could ever be remotely compared to an Italian gentleman’s chaotic stewardship of Elland Road. Outside of self-confessed mistakes, Kevin McCabe has long been a conscientious custodian. He’s one of the good guys of football club ownership, even if, while dogged by some bad luck along the way,
United should never have been in the third tier for this duration.
But the club structure adds up again, making top position in League One no coincidence. Picking the right manager is one thing. Giving him the right conditions in which to work is another.
The Blades have clearly done both in the case of Chris Wilder.
Trusting him fully on transfers was the first step. Look at the evidence – the way signings accelerated last summer after the technical committee was disbanded and the quick-fire start to this window with Samir Carruthers signed, more on the way (with Chesterfield’s Jay O’Shea among possibilities), and influential loanees Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Daniel Lafferty also secured. In the not too distant past, that sort of activity would have been shunted to the end of the window. If at all.
Personally expediting transfers from within his budget, with just a chief executive and specialist wage negotiator joining in, has given Wilder a head start. Impressive backing from the board is another factor he has acknowledged. It all makes so much more sense.
Although Wilder will act responsibly on any too-good-to-refuse offer, as per selling Che Adams last summer, there is none of that previously all-too-familiar panic about who United might lose.
I hear there is interest from higher up in promising young keeper Aaron Ramsdale. Whether anything develops beyond a possible loan is impossible to guess, but the point where the first team is concerned is that you can bet on it being further bolstered from a position of strength and certainly not weakened.
Also welcome by its absence is rumour over internal politics. While McCabe has again stepped into the lead role, Prince Abdullah remains joint football club owner quietly in the background.
It appears the Prince put a stop on investing further after the wastages of the past but, from what I hear, he is likely to muscle in again on that front if United are promoted back to the Championship.
So the picture is healthier than for many years. Yes, Wilder, his staff and players deserve most of the credit. But let’s not forget McCabe and his board. They take the brickbats and so deserve to take a bow on this occasion.