Milan Mandaric tells me he and Dave Jones are playing a “waiting game” over Billy Sharp. Whether Sheffield Wednesday snare him or not, it is surely only a matter of time before salaries of the level this player enjoys exist only in the Premier League.
I say “enjoys.” A better word would be “endures” for Sharp’s current situation is a captive of his own high wages. These excesses, now in the process of being curbed, are working against the players in some cases as well as the clubs.
If, first and foremost, the players want to play, that is. And I’d put Sharp very much in that bracket as he kicks his heels in virtual isolation at Southampton where you’d like to think even a reported £18,000 a week doesn’t entirely overcome a sense of frustration.
Mandaric (see the full interview inside) clearly feels Saints could yet be persuaded to end the futility of their demand for any interested club – and there are half a dozen in the Championship – to take over the striker’s wages in full.
The Owls owner insists: “Things could always change. We’re waiting. He’s still a target for our manager. We’ll see what happens.”
Obviously, with Swansea’s Leroy Lita also in the recruitment equation, there is a balance to be struck between the pressing need to sign a striker and waiting a little longer for arguably the man most guaranteed to bring you goals.
It also seems apparent that, despite urban myth, Sharp is more than prepared to play for the Owls for all his allegiance to the Blades where he had two unfulfilled spells. And why not indeed? Bottom line is that Sharp is a professional footballer. Sheffield football history is awash with players who’ve supported one club and played for the other – or who have played for both.
To think any other way is tribal and primitive.
But the thing that must really change is the profligacy that saw Southampton, as a Championship outfit at the time, put Sharp on wages that cannot be sustained outside the top flight. Financial fair play is seeing to it.
Prince is a serious man
Sometimes it’s what people DON’T say that fills you with hope.
Prince Abdullah didn’t have to talk about saving Sheffield United. It was already safe with the McCabe family. The Prince won’t dismantle the way the club is run or steamroller through new wage curbs.
Manager David Weir isn’t pleading for cash or suggesting it is the sole answer to United’s poor start. Which it isn’t.
Neither has the Prince brought gimmicks like changing the club’s name or colours. The only makeover he and co-owner Kevin McCabe want is to become a winning team again.
But the Prince wasn’t rash enough to set a timetable for the Premier League; hoped for five years, recognised it could take ten. “And we want to do it the right way,” he said.
“Right” is somewhat indefinable but we all know some of the wrongs in the game. Avoiding those is to the Blades’ credit, as is McCabe admitting mistakes.
I admit I went to the Saudi Prince’s unveiling intending to remain healthily sceptical. What I saw was a very serious and determined man rather than the archetypal playboy owner on an ego trip.
McCabe adopted my “patience” theme and pledged to end a make-it-up-as-you-go-along mentality: “We are highly unlikely in future to bring in anyone who hasn’t been tracked for a considerable time.”
Oh, and nobody talked about the likelihood of selling products of the club’s academy. Now that’s what I call progress.
Good start sees Spireites on the up and up
The former Owls triumvirate of Dave Allen, Chris Turner and Ashley Carson are not only climbing the league tables... they are also climbing the walls. How so with Chesterfield top of League Two?
Well, it’s simply that their latest acquisition is a state-of-the-art children’s play centre, a grant-aided project costing £1.5m. You may ask, what’s that got to do with running a football club?
“These kids could be the supporters of tomorrow,” answers the club’s community chief John Croot during a guided tour of the Hub stand at the Proact Stadium.
There’s also a medical room boasting a hydrotherapy pool for the use of the public as well as players. Community links are clearly vital to the Spireites’ hopes of building support on top of the 6,500 who watched them maintain their flying start against Accrington last Saturday.
Nick continues to walk tall
Nick Matthew is walking tall in the face of the faintly ridiculous decision this week to rule out squash as an Olympic sport. Though maybe not as shameful as the day a certain columnist somehow omitted the two-times world champion from the city’s roll of sporting honour. So I am honoured that Nick has not forgotten to send me an invitation to his induction to Sheffield’s “Walk of Fame” outside the Town Hall tomorrow!