Alan Biggs: United prepared to spend but don’t want to blow their cash

Alan Bigg Telegraph
Alan Bigg Telegraph
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Sheffield United’s new regime feel David Weir was “flooded” out with summer signings – and insist Nigel Clough has most of the players needed to climb the table.

Weir was found to be out of his depth partly because he was encouraged to bring in too many recruits, argues Jim Phipps, adviser to Prince Abdullah, in the second part of a one-to-one with this column.

Phipps also stresses a belief that too big an outlay on new players will block the path of academy products around whom United are intending to build. And in answer to those questioning evidence of investment by the Prince, he said: “You’ve noticed we didn’t sell off our best young talent in the last window. We have the resources to keep them.”

The Blades’ new backer may be a man in a hurry but he is prepared to put evolution ahead of revolution. Phipps suggests there was too much of the latter in the summer.

“I still believe David Weir will be a great manager,” he said. “I don’t think he had the experience to get us out of the situation we were in and I think we probably over-resourced him... flooded him... made it difficult to discern which team to put on the pitch.”

United, says Phipps, are learning to find a “stout version” of the passing game Weir favoured under a manager who will aim to play “a disciplined, exciting variety of football.”

He added: “In a few months I think we’ll be talking about how we’ve got a great deal out of the players here. A considerable amount has been spent but we’re not going to go crazy and just buy our way out of League One. We’re going to get the right fit at the right price.

“Showering the club with money would destroy the academy over a period of time in preventing our own lads from coming up.

“Sheffield United’s identity is that some of their best players through history have been Sheffield lads. So many clubs in England are in distress, so everyone sells off their talent. Ours is not a Manchester City style entry. Our methodology will produce a less visible flow of cash. It’ll be to make lots of smart plays.

“The Prince is extraordinarily humble, he almost always brings other smart people into his investments.”

On the team control share with the McCabes, Phipps added: “Partnerships are hard. If there’s one who wants to move forward and one who’s a little more passive, that can cause difficulty. But I think the Prince saw a really good match for his own style in Kevin McCabe. Maybe in some ways they’re opposites but in others they’re similar. Both are quite entrepreneurial.”

The bottom line pledge is that bigger money is available – at the right time. As Phipps puts it: “We don’t want to spend it all in League One. The Championship is going to be a lot more expensive, competing with clubs who bring down huge amounts from the Premier League.

“That makes it a very challenging division. We want to get there in a sustainable way and then go up. We have to do well enough to get promoted without shooting off all the ammunition.”

Loans will gave Mandaric and Jones time to try and improve Owls fortunes - before it’s too late

Dave Jones’ job at Sheffield Wednesday is hanging by the proverbial thread amid ominous noises from his hitherto highly supportive chairman.

Anyone viewing Wednesday’s results in the light of Milan Mandaric’s reputation will be surprised that Jones remains.

Which I’d guess is near enough all of us.

Managers have been sacked for a lot less and certainly by this club owner.

But it would be a mistake to think Mandaric has lost the plot. Or his interest in the club.

His saving of it, his feeling for it and his fierce desire to protect his £20m plus investment (which Jones will know better than most following a round of crisis talks) all suggest that supporters can and, should, trust him as before.

Ideally, Jones will rally the team and quickly.

Money is tight and he is on contract until the summer of 2015, making compensation or gardening leave unsavoury options after recent borrowing to fund signings.

But that doesn’t mean Mandaric, who has now taken out £3m plus in loans, won’t act.

His accessing of quicker money than was readily available from his assets in America and Europe is a sure sign of change, even if only earmarked for transfers.

Chairmen as wily as Mandaric don’t give “a small chance” to a manager – as Mandaric has been quoted – without considering the alternatives. You’d be naive not to think he has been doing that for a while.

But there doesn’t seem to be an obvious one out there.

Jones will know it’s a long way back for a manager in his predicament.

But hopefully results will turn under him, starting in what could be a last-chance game at Blackpool on Saturday, and fans will stay behind chairman, manager and team in these rocky times.