Alan Biggs: Optimism abounds at the Lane, but now it’s time for patience

Sheffield United's chairman Kevin McCabe in the stands during the npower Football League One match at The Valley, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Sheffield United's chairman Kevin McCabe in the stands during the npower Football League One match at The Valley, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

I did say I couldn’t offer much immediate hope to Blades fans! In short, don’t expect too much too soon.

That was only a week ago. Can you believe that? The outlook has been totally transformed by the sudden and much acclaimed announcement of a multi-billionaire Saudi investor.

And yet now, at the risk of being a killjoy, I can’t help but issue a new warning – against over-expectation!

Again, could you have imagined reading anything like that just seven days ago? No club was more needy of a lift than Sheffield United. Optimism is the lifeblood of football and Bramall Lane required an emergency transfusion.

It has come with the infusion of new money and a partnership between long-time owner Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah, who was recently linked with an attempted buy-in at Leeds United.

What it doesn’t necessarily mean is David Weir’s already strengthened team will storm to promotion. It doesn’t mean either that huge amounts of cash can or will be splashed. There is Financial Fair Play to be reckoned with. Can anybody explain to me how more can be spent on players even with a wealthy individual on board (what the game is rightly trying to prevent)?

But there must be ways and means. Exciting news can bring impatience and that is dangerous. This jam is for tomorrow. Mind you, last Saturday’s home defeat to MK Dons said that rather more loudly than anything written here, even if the result obscured some pleasing football that just needs perking up a bit.

But the investment IS a statement of intent that changes the mood. It means United should be able to make progress and then cement and accelerate it. When they return to the Championship they can buy to challenge from that level rather than scuffle. Ditto with the ultimate aim of a Premier League place.

Importantly, this is change WITH continuity. McCabe has made a number of questionable decisions in recent years. But, as a lifelong Blade, his heart is in the right place. He has been and remains a guardian against the worst excesses of foreign ownership.

Also, without wishing to rain on these blinding rays of Saudi Arabian sunshine, Prince Abdullah’s commitment cannot be linked with the £90m plus injected by the McCabes over the past decade. That embraced the whole multi-faceted operation of the club. The prince has acquired 50% of just the football side, which was recently split from the business and property arm in a highly productive strategic move by McCabe.

How much is a League One football squad actually worth? Not much (the prince bought half of it for £1 !) – but it could be! What it’s really about is future investment in the team. If, say, a targeted player costing £500,000 comes on the market then you’d expect United to be able to fund a bid without selling.

That’s probably about the level of it for now and doesn’t begin to compare with the cash in football at the top. But it’s more than a start. Where it might lead can only be gauged by the wealth at the command of United’s new backer and his appetite for the challenge.

The vocal minority who question Owls’ saviour Mandaric need to remember him stepping up

We’re talking a minority here but it must be amazing to outsiders that any – let alone some – Sheffield Wednesday fans have used the Blades buy-in as a stick with which to beat Milan Mandaric.

Okay, the Owls start to the season has been a touch underwhelming. So has the level of recruitment recently and, yes, it’s understandable that supporters would like to see more money in the club. They are proud to have made Wednesday one of the best supported outfits in the Championship and hope their loyalty is reflected in results before long.

But if there is one guy on whom you can’t take out your frustration it is the man who saved your club. The Owls and their followers will be forever in Mandaric’s debt.

Yes, he’s a businessman and will look to make a profit from selling up. Nothing wrong there. What’s important is that Mandaric stepped in when no-one else would. The club has also progressed under his chairmanship.

Further, he was up front right here last spring about this being a low-key summer. Loans are a different matter and I expect a couple from the Premiership to follow. Further, I’m told that interest in the club from a Chinese group led by Sammy Yu remains strong. And let’s make clear that this is different from Sheffield United where someone has secured half of just the team. Wednesday are wholly owned by Mandaric. It would take a minimum of £20-25m to buy him out and provide him a worthwhile return.