ALAN BIGGS: Kids are alright for bright Blades

Sheffield United's Harry Maguire
Sheffield United's Harry Maguire

For a club to turn itself round is one thing; for it to do so under its own steam quite another. Blades, take a bow.

Is it just me or have Sheffield United completed a full turning circle towards plain sailing into a brighter future? And I’m not just referring to the team’s lofty league position.

Football’s fad is for quick turnarounds based on new ownership and buckets of money.

United would seem to have righted themselves without either of those things and the way they have done it, taking heed of the many mistakes of the club’s recent past, is surely an example to many others of the right way ahead.

Of course, so much still depends on winning promotion back to the Championship this season. But look at the evidence of a club on the mend and it is compelling:

n A largely settled squad that is being augmented rather than dismantled.

n More youngsters graduating from the academy with Terry Kennedy, Elliott Whitehouse, Callum McFadzean and Joe Ironside joining Harry Maguire and George Long.

n A firm hand on the tiller in manager Danny Wilson and his vastly experienced staff.

Taken together, these are firm indicators of a club returning to health, none more powerful than the second.

To have half-a-dozen homegrown products - and more to come evidently - emerging at the same time is outstanding.

Some may have doubted United’s academy investment during the years of decline but not only have the sales, albeit regrettable, proved a prop against financial difficulty, the production line is now at the heart of a potentially long-lasting renaissance.

This column has been quick to take the Blades hierarchy to task for the managerial upheaval and make-it-up-as-you-go-along transfer policy that saw the team relegated to the third tier, so credit where it is due.

Owner Kevin McCabe appears to have re-established a thread of coherence and continuity that promises to stretch some way into the future. There was initial downsizing as United wrestled with the Fair Play wage restrictions that continue to necessitate caution. But, as a well supported club playing below its station, there can be benefits and advantages over rivals with less turnover to plough into transfers.

Besides, clubs like United will always attract players others can’t get because of their size and tradition. Wilson has played this card well in landing the likes of Jamie Murphy and Danny Higginbotham in an impressive burst of recruitment.

Doubtless there will be corporate machinations behind the scenes about which we know little beyond the apparent splitting off of the football business. McCabe has so far declined my attempts to shed more light on this.

But I do concede that low-profile chairmanship is often a healthy sign. It’s when chairmen are forever firefighting in public that there is usually cause to worry.

United have a better chance now than for many years - including their last overstretching spell in the Championship and their brilliant but financially unsustainable team of last season - to make real progress and cement it for the future.

I hope - and believe - they will take it.

Plumb job for Owls boss Jones

Quote of the week from Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones: “When there’s a tile missing from your roof, you don’t go for a plumber do you?”

Ironic considering it has been a leaky defence that has given the Owls most emergencies this season.

Now, as Jones admits, the problems are up top!

Frankly, it doesn’t seem that Wednesday carry enough of a goal threat whatever their combination of strikers.

Some are relatively inexperienced in the Championship and none has a prolific record, including on-loan Stoke forward Mamady Sidibe.

Which is not to say that, after tightening up in other areas, Jones has a squad that should be fearful of relegation even if the table says otherwise. After last summer’s recruitment, you would think that mid-table is a reasonable enough expectation.

It follows that Jones will have to create any elbow room in his budget from players leaving Hillsborough. But signing a marksman is undeniably shaping as a crucial need if the club is to avoid anxiety in the second half of the season.

Window of opportunity... for some

The best windows are the ones you can see right through and January is clearly becoming a watershed for managers.

Look around and you will see the blokes who are relatively safe. They are the ones making bids and setting up talks, closing in on targets.

Then there are those who keep talking about signing players and never quite do. The fee is just out of range, the wages a touch too high, the age of the player not quite right for the price.

These are the managers “under pressure.”

No-one ever says so but there is often a sinister hidden agenda for those bosses who keep “just missing out.” And they know it well enough.

Of course, they have to be seen to be out there competing because their clubs need it to appear that way. Yet all the while it can be a front for a slow strangulation process.

Chairmen back managers they trust and intend to keep in place. It’s equally natural that when doubts surface, any available cash can be held back, often for the next man in.

Besides, it’s never really too late for clubs to strengthen.

Once one window closes, another opens - which is why the rush of January is so ridiculous and unnecessary.

But you can tell a lot from what doesn’t happen as much as what does.