Alan Biggs: Credibility of Prince Abdullah’s regime on line over new Sheffield United manager

Sheffield United’s next action, the appointment of a new manager, has never been more vital and pressing.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 12:00 pm

As one who’s desperate for a chance to change the narrative, I hope they get it right.

It’s too late for regrets about something that can’t be repaired but how everyone in and around the club must wish they could move on from it.

After expressing strong views in the aftermath of Chris Wilder’s departure, I resolved to re-focus this column.

Sheffield United owner and chairman Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

But it’s not that simple when all roads lead back to the events of mid-March. And when the consensus of opinion around the club is that the best person to replace Wilder is... well, Wilder.

Which only reinforces my view that the club’s hierarchy made a colossal mistake that I hope they don’t regret.

It doesn’t matter how you dress it up - resigned, sacked, parting by mutual consent - the bottom line is that United lost a virtually irreplaceable manager.

For instance, on figures I’ve just seen, United’s ninth place last season was accompanied by them being the most solvent club in the Premier League with better than zero operating losses.

Ok, no-one is bigger than the club and the Blades’ sheer reliance on Wilder to drive forward was maybe not the ideal scenario.

Except it’s a fact that he did and there’s been a sense of the board groping around in search of fresh direction ever since.

Certainly, it is a very different club from the one that last welcomed fans to Bramall Lane 14 months ago and which will have to attune itself to match day feedback next season after the partial return of supporters for the curtain-closer with Burnley this weekend.

This is an unhappy episode that needs closure. Wilder’s eventual and inevitable appointment to another job high up the scale will help to some degree but before then United really must have a clear route under another leader.

Otherwise, a mounting discontent is not hard to imagine.

This was fermented by a puzzling initial indifference to the best man for the job when, as I understand it, delivery of Slavisa Jokanovic’s CV went unanswered.

Making belated contact with the former Watford and Fulham promotion-winner can’t be just a token box-ticking attempt.

There is plenty at stake here, not least the credibility of Prince Abdullah’s regime.

As a respected colleague remarked to me recently, United have two audiences to satisfy.

The first is the fans and the second the dressing room. Whoever walks into it needs to command instant respect after the bond shared with Wilder.

I’m not saying an inexperienced or left-field appointment could not, in time, gain respect - but time will be short even for the most seasoned campaigner to make his mark in a climate of comparison with what went before.

Hopefully the powers that be will be able to do the necessary.