He’s Shear class as Ched is compared to strike ace

Football - Cardiff City v Sheffield United npower Football League Championship - Cardiff City Stadium - 8/8/10'Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell'Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra'Livepic
Football - Cardiff City v Sheffield United npower Football League Championship - Cardiff City Stadium - 8/8/10'Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell'Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra'Livepic

Ched Evans has drawn comparisons with Alan Shearer for the way he has begun unleashing the potential for which Sheffield United paid £3m.

If you asked any Sheffield United fan last summer about the wisdom of that outlay, the former Manchester City striker would have gone down as an expensive flop.

Npower League Division One 'Sheffield United vs PNE''Utd's Ched Evans turns away to celebrate after scoring his and the Blades 2nd Match winning goal

Npower League Division One 'Sheffield United vs PNE''Utd's Ched Evans turns away to celebrate after scoring his and the Blades 2nd Match winning goal

It was no secret, either, that the Blades were actively keen to get Evans off their wage bill as the shock waves reverberated from last season’s relegation to League One.

Now he is the irreplaceable spearhead of their bid to return to the Championship and finally proving that the club’s faith in his youthful promise was not misplaced.

So it is worth hearing from the manager who brought Evans to Bramall Lane now that his judgment his being vindicated, albeit at a lower level than intended.

Kevin Blackwell believes the 23-year-old Wales striker can now go on to take the original signing plan to maturity. And he offers a startling observation on the talent that made him persuade the United board to invest for the future rather than sign a ready-made forward.

“The way Ched strikes the ball reminds you of Alan Shearer,” the former Blades boss told the Telegraph. “He hits it so hard and with little or no backlift. We saw it time and again in training.

“But he would sometimes lash out with shots during games. Now he’s hitting them at the right time, making the right decisions.”

With 21 goals this season - up to last night’s home game with Scunthorpe, which took place after the Telegraph went to press - Evans is the type of forward for whom the word “hotshot” was invented. So ferocious is his shooting that coaches have learned to stand well clear in training. Evans is on record about the encouragement he has received, not least from manager Danny Wilson who has helped rebuild the player’s shattered confidence after a fast turnaround of managers.

In his own way, too, Blackwell exercised a duty of care with Evans, being careful not to push him too hard and sometimes taking him out of the firing line for the player’s own good rather than his own.

Blackwell took the flak when Evans, reputedly on a £20,000 a week deal, was slow to flourish but is now entitled to feel some vindication.

He added: “I take great pleasure in seeing the development of all players I’ve worked with and I’m delighted for Ched. I tried not to put too much pressure on him and hopefully that’s helped.

“Ched was bought for his potential. We had every faith in him as a long-term signing as opposed to investing in proven ability. He was only 20 when he came from Manchester City reserves and we felt he was one for the future.

“But people forgot his age when it took him time to settle. No player likes being left out . . . young ones can get frustrated and take decisions the wrong way.

“Ched had been a bit-part player at Manchester City. Now he had to learn to deal with the pressure. He had to grow mentally as well as physically - he had a bit of a wild side.

“It’s not just about having terrific ability, you have to work on producing it. I’d seen things in Ched that I’d seen in other players I’d worked with, like James Milner and Aaron Lennon. Kids go forward in spurts and then have to catch up with their knowledge of the game.

“Ched is now showing that he’s got all the attributes and they are terrific. He’s got a shot in both feet, can head the ball and hold it up. All he needed was time.”

Whether Evans remains at Bramall Lane beyond the expiry of his three-year deal next summer remains open to question. Promotion would go a long way to resolving it, even though the player would still have to accept a downscaling of his terms.

The recession has bitten deep into football since he made the move to Sheffield. A comparable player would no longer command anything like the same figures in terms of fee and wages.

That has made Evans an awkward asset for United to have on their books. But if he and the club can progress at their present rate then there is every chance that, in the fullness of time, the gamble will deliver a rich dividend.

The Blades have another home game on Saturday with Oldham in town.

Twitter@AlanBiggs1