Blades can do the impossible!

Smarter and leaner: Julian Winter's target for the new United.                     Picture: chris lawton
Smarter and leaner: Julian Winter's target for the new United. Picture: chris lawton

AT first glance it seems like an impossible job.

But Julian Winter, one of the men tasked with ensuring Sheffield United reduce expenditure without compromising results, is adamant it can be achieved.

“The two things are not mutually exclusive,” Winter, United’s chief executive, told The Star. “The game as a whole is facing challenges but the idea that you inevitably have to throw huge amounts of money at something to achieve success is not correct.

“It’s not about simply having a blank cheque. Our aim is to be sustainable and if you deal with that, look to achieve that in a certain time frame, then it makes it a lot easier.

“We are looking to get ahead of the curve and that is what we are working towards now.”

Fears that a squad which hosts Preston North End tomorrow second in the League One table would be torn apart during last month’s transfer window were allayed when United, rather than off-loading a series of key names, instead added James Beattie, Marcus Williams and Will Hoskins to their roster.

Acknowledging there could be “transition” among manager Danny Wilson’s playing staff this summer, irrespective of which division United find themselves in, Winter outlined the model Bramall Lane’s hierarchy believe can help them become smarter and leaner in the future.

“It’s not an impossible job and there is plenty of evidence to prove that,” he said. “The key is to be patient and consistent. There is flexibility within every plan but you can’t flip-flop around from concept to concept. You have to decide upon a course, one that everyone buys into, and then stick to it.”

“Our model for the squad here places a lot of emphasis on home-grown players. Creating a pathway for them, utilising the assets we have at our disposal and improving upon them.

“We are also putting a lot of effort and energy into our scouting department where Billy (Dearden) is in charge.”

“What we want is a system whereby we are ready to move quickly,” continued Winter. “We want to be creative and go fishing in markets which suit us. To eliminate the element of risk which is inherent in any deal.

“And to be able to implement Danny Wilson’s wishes.

“Of course, the first team is the ultimate focus.”

That process began when United appointed John Stephenson, whose recruitment model helped Winter’s former club Watford develop a reputation for unearthing unpolished gems in a crowded transfer market, as their head of football operations in November.

It continued yesterday when George Long signed a contract extension and Wilson lavished praise upon the goalkeeper’s fellow teenager Harry Maguire.

“Harry’s attitude is excellent,” the United manager said. “When he makes a mistake, which are few and far between, it doesn’t seem to bother him, he just gets on with the job and to see that in someone so young is very rare indeed.

“But it’s nothing to do with me. There has clearly been some excellent work going on behind the scenes here for a while now and we are probably reaping the benefits of that.”

Winter, who admitted “football as a whole is facing huge challenges,” insisted United should welcome forthcoming legislation which prevents clubs from spending more than a prescribed portion of their turnover on wages.

However, he urged the game’s governing bodies to ensure the Salary Cost Protocol Management system has “real teeth.”

“A club like ours should not fear this,” Winter said. “Quite the opposite, because of our fan base and infrastructure, we should welcome positively welcome it.”

Teams and ref

BLADES (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Jean-Francois, Flynn, Doyle, McDonald, Quinn, Evans, Hoskins.

PRESTON (possible): Stuckmann, Robertson, McAllister, Hunt, Nicholson, Marrow, Barton, Parry, Procter, Holroyd, Cummins.

MARK BROWN (East Yorks): Will be taking charge of his first ever match at Bramall Lane. Has issued 66 yellow cards and sent-off two players in 25 outings this season. Once suspended for three weeks after posting a joke about Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard on a social media site.

One to watch

Manager Graham Westley, pictured, rather than those players named in Preston North End’s matchday squad, could actually be the one to watch here. Will be fascinating to discover if the former Stevenage chief decides to dramatically change the visitors’ prevously attacking style.

History lesson

Sheffield United have won 44 per cent of their 104 league and cup contests with Preston North End. Twenty-six of those have ended in draws with tomorrow’s visitors prevailing in 32. United triumphed 4-2 at Deepdale earlier this term and beat North End 1-0 at Bramall Lane in August 2010.