Column: Four players who have a secure future at Sheffield United

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp. David Klein/Sportimage

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp. David Klein/Sportimage

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Wishing away the rest of the season is understandable if you are a Sheffield United supporter. Certainly not if you are a player.

Have some reached the height of their careers? If not, they should embrace the last nine games of the season and prove it. Because that is a lifeline for individuals, not just for the club’s receding play-off hopes.

Sheffield United's George Long

Sheffield United's George Long

No excuses for anyone here. Very few stand out from what has been a season of wretched mediocrity. And even they would surely admit they could have done better.

Of those players who have been at Bramall Lane all season, I can make a firm case for only four who can be confident of their future with the club at a time of great upheaval. That, you might think, says it all.

From what this column has seen, and feedback from regular United watchers, goalkeeper George Long has been the one outstanding success. He recovered from a rocky start to show the temperament, as well as ability, to hold down a regular place and his many admirers from a young age (he’s still only 22) will have noted that his great promise now looks like being fulfilled.

Billy Sharp is an obvious pick. By his own admission, he ought to have scored more but 16 goals in a struggling team is a good return at any level. Quite forgivably, Billy has worn his frustration publicly at times, having shown the courage, hunger and drive his team so often lack.

John Brayford has to be in a similar bracket; way below his best since his return but it’s hard to hit the ground running after a serious injury. A strong character who can lead by example and one who will be angered by the turn of events after taking a substantial pay cut to move from Cardiff City.

As for the rest, Chris Basham has looked dependable whenever I’ve watched, another determined sort who shows some steel, whether at the back or in midfield. After that, we’re struggling, aren’t we? There are players of ability who, for whatever reason, haven’t performed well enough or consistently enough.

That’s before we get to those players – almost a whole team of them – out on loan. Of these, this column has sympathy for two. With eleven goals for Portsmouth, Marc McNulty is a striker who would certainly have been around the team had he not been loaned. I’d also question the decision to farm out Jamal Campbell-Ryce to Chesterfield. Not only a committed pro but, even at 32, still a player of pace at a club sorely lacking that quality.

It goes without saying that manager Nigel Adkins also has much proving to do as he looks to integrate the success of the club’s junior teams into some radical reshaping.