Alan Biggs' Sheffield United column: Is Brooks cash key to Blades campaign?
There was never much of a drama in the first place but one person seemed to relish it more than anybody. No, not one of Bramall Lane's prophets of doom, who began to fear the worst just two games into this new season.
What is most memorable looking back at those defeats is the manager’s reaction to the second of them, 3-0 at Middlesbrough. For those who weren’t there, that reaction was a little unexpected. Chris Wilder can rant with the best of them and Sheffield United’s support at large held its breath.
What followed was a cool, clinical analysis and the conclusion that, avoidable mistakes apart, his team was very much intact and still up for matching or even bettering last season. But it was one throwaway line that stuck with me . . .that Wilder “enjoyed” times like this.
He meant times when others doubted, times when he himself was fully tested – as he was after a bad start in the job itself two years ago in what became a League One title season.
Fast forward a fortnight and Wilder’s Blades have their launchpad in place after hard fought back-to-back victories over QPR and Norwich.
In truth, this was entirely predictable – something a few of the doubters might consider in future, although it’s probably not in the nature of the beast (at any club).
But it wasn’t just the football that sent a few premature distress flares skywards. Panic set in again when Lee Evans was transferred on deadline day, only for Wilder to secure a superior replacement in Oliver Norwood.
Two more additions are sought before the August loan window closes and this is where the sums get interesting.
By my calculations, the captures of Norwood and record signing John Egan (plus the requirements of Manchester United and Liverpool for the Dean Henderson/ Ben Woodburn loans) have come close to expending Wilder’s initial budget. This I gauge to have been around £7m, perhaps a touch more, on fees and wages.
But it does mean that, at the time of writing, the David Brooks money (£12-£15m in stages) has yet to be touched. The key to the campaign could be how much of that Wilder is allowed to invest.
It’s likely that all or most of it will remain in place come January. Having something in hand will be important in that window. If United are in position to compete for the top six, that’s when a board split by the owners’ battle for control will have a big decision to make.