James Shield's Sheffield United Column: The Blades are about to face their biggest off-the-pitch test yet

It wasn't as glamorous as Dean Henderson's exploits with England's under-21 squad. It did not grab the attention, either in print or in cyberspace, quite like Scott Hogan's criticism of Steve Bruce for blocking his move from Aston Villa to Sheffield United.

Thursday, 25th October 2018, 2:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th October 2018, 2:18 pm
Sheffield United are facing a big test off the pitch

But the most important development at Bramall Lane last week was, for a whole host of reasons, confirmation that a new director has been appointed by the Championship club.

Inevitably, with Chris Wilder's side on top of the table following a four matching winning streak, Saad Allazeez's arrival was always unlikely to send supporters into a frenzy or spark wild celebrations in the pubs, clubs and restaurants of nearby London Road. The 47-year-old, whose country of residence is listed as Saudi Arabia, will not play against Wigan Athletic tomorrow. Nor,  I'll gladly wager a million riyals, will he score the winning goal.

Indeed, with United's two co-owners Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud still locked in a battle for sole control, most supporters can be forgiven for focusing purely on footballing matters rather than fretting about events behind the boardroom door. But with the January transfer window fast approaching, when many of United's rivals will enter the market to bolster their squads, the spotlight is about to shine once again on off-the-pitch matters. Whether Wilder, the top brass or anyone else for that matter likes it or not.

Despite their extent of their fall-out, described by a High Court judge as 'bad' last summer, McCabe and Prince Abdullah managed to prevent it from becoming too much of a distraction before the August deadline. Despite losing David Brooks to AFC Bournemouth, United arguably ended the month in better shape than they had started it with Oliver Norwood, Conor Washington and Martin Cranie joining fellow new signings John Egan, David McGoldrick and Ben Woodburn on the books.

Whether you believe Wilder has transformed his employers' fortunes with the help or the two men or in spite of their row, the next couple of months will prove the biggest test of United's hierarchy ability to temporarily park their differences yet.

Why? Because of the quality, and therefore the cost, of attracting the type of player capable of strengthening a squad which travelled to Derby County five days ago with more points than any other team in the division. Because, with the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds all set to recruit, strengthen they must. 

Although a High Court judge revealed earlier this year that Prince Abdullah and McCabe are of different opinions about how to fund United's operations during their fight for supremacy, Wilder must receive a firm undertaking that his share of Brooks' £11.5m fee will remain intact rather than frittered away on other things.

With the boards of both United and their parent company Blades Leisure Limited containing an equal number of the duo's representatives, Allazeez, together with others, will help decide what the manager can spend.