Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United column: All early summer talk has been about strikers

It’s started. It’ll be with us all summer.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 15 May, 2019, 17:11
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

And the only thing you can be really certain of is that the newly crowned Manager of the Season isn’t about to trumpet his targets for the club’s first Premier League season in 13 years.

Except that, when it comes to “selling” Sheffield United to would-be recruits, I’d expect Chris Wilder to start – and maybe end – with a tour of the fine stadium at Bramall Lane rather than the bleak and spartan training ground at Shirecliffe.

I believe an upgrade on this ranks above any player on the boss’s longer-term wish list.

It’s all against the background of something else that’s “started and will be with us all summer.”

Well, most of it ... and maybe long beyond. The pitched battle for control of the club now commenced in the High Court.

And yet, for all the acrimony, you sense none of last summer’s desperation from the manager over this stand-off.

Not just because of a glorious promotion to the elite for which he has deservedly earned the ultimate accolade from his peers at the League Managers Association.

I suspect it reflects his confidence that the joint-owners will – in the short-term at least – come to a compromise on investment in the team, just as they have done previously, and will provide a workable figure.

Don’t rule out a surprise or two. Gary Madine arrived by stealth. David McGoldrick was an out-of-contract steal.

Outside that, you can only make your own value judgment on speculation.

But note that the early names are all strikers. While other positions will be earmarked, that’s a reliable starting point in the search for truth.

Right now, United are effectively SIX strikers down ... loanees Scott Hogan and Madine returned to their clubs, Conor Washington and Caolan Lavery released, Leon Clarke and Ched Evans transfer-listed.

Which leaves Billy Sharp and McGoldrick as the only two senior strikers.

That’s some stretch of blank canvas, even if Madine and Hogan were to come back.

Throw in that goals are the probable dividing line between the Blades staying up or not.

So I find some merit in a few of the names put up so far. Ticks here – purely as a matter of opinion – beside the names of Neal Maupay, Oli McBurnie and Britt Assombalonga.

All fit the profile of hungry, talented players on the way up.

Maupay, aged 22 – 28 goals for Brentford last season.

McBurnie, also 22 – 24 goals for Swansea.

Assombalonga, aged 26 – a great finisher whose 16 goals for Middlesbrough have to be measured against a conservative style of play.

Fernando Forestieri of Sheffield Wednesday?  

I’m not going to dismiss an attraction. It’s just I don’t see it happening.

He’s different in all sorts of ways, with a zip and skill, plus the sort of tenacity managers admire, capable of making him a top class player (and I’d include the Premier League in that) ... on his day.

When rumours surfaced last season of a United loan interest, you could see the why.

Wilder is not averse to to taking a calculated risk or springing a surprise. He wouldn’t blink if he thought his tight-knit group could contain, absorb and control a temperamental talent.

But the outlay would have to reflect value for money for a 29-year-old.

Wednesday would be bound to quote high – and maybe higher – to city rivals.

Considering Forestieri’s recent fitness record and erratic form, I simply couldn’t see a workable agreement even if it was pursued.

Certainly not if the conjectured £14m is in any way accurate.

Save those words for a gloat!

Meantime, savour a summer in which you’d expect United to be bidding higher than at any time in the club’s history for a whole raft of players.