A daydream. Of a return to those days when football clubs of a certain size;-
- Recognised talent at ALL levels and invested in developing it.
- Produced home grown players and gave them a pathway to the first team.
- Refused to pay over the odds on fees and wages.
- Demanded a hard day’s work for a fair day’s pay.
- Insisted that the team comes before individuals.
- Connected with supporters and recognised the value of the paying customer.
No need to snap out of it. It’s real. Sheffield United may not always succeed with all of the above but it’s enough that those core values are very much at the heart of Chris Wilder’s old school revolution at Bramall Lane.
There will be times when they are tested. A taste of success produces a hunger for me. And no-one’s hungrier or in more of a hurry than a man who’s won back-to-back titles. Supporters are equally keen to tuck in for more after a feeding frenzy of a season.
But it’s clear from the approach to recruitment this summer that Wilder won’t compromise on the principles that have served him well. He’ll want to take them all the way to the top.
Of course, there’s an argument, bordering on an acceptance, that the higher a club goes the more it has to expend inflationary fees, feed the egos of star players and indulge their bulging bank balances. But it doesn’t mean you can’t choose not to.
Ok, some clubs with limited resources either don’t have – or shouldn’t have - a choice in the matter. United are somewhere between the two. I think you can assume that Kevin McCabe and
Prince Abdullah won’t be sitting on their hands or their wallets as they look to catch the wave of momentum that has returned the club to the Championship and focused it on the ultimate leap to the Premier League. As substantially wealthy men, though, I’d reckon they DO have a choice. To try to bankroll promotion with glitzy signings or to gain growth from Wilder’s earthy ethics.
Look at Burnley under Sean Dyche in the Premier League to see the sense of the latter. But, as with everything in life, it’s a question of balance. A club is unlikely to climb two tiers to the top flight without some significant investment in the team at some stage. It’s how you blend it in without losing the basic framework that makes the difference.
I wouldn’t expect all of United’s summer recruitment to be as relatively low profile (one signing excepted) as the way they’ve started. But a marker has been put down with the addition of a little-known winger from
Hartlepool, a defender from Portsmouth and the move for an attacker from Charlton. Nathan Thomas, Enda Stevens and Ricky Holmes are examples of United staying grounded, served by a much respected scouting expert in Paul Mitchell.
Equally important in that regard are young Ben Whiteman returning from a development loan In League Two at Mansfield (with a step up to Doncaster imminent) and the highly promising David Brooks embarking on a similar one at Chesterfield.
It all adds up to healthy progression.