Revealed - What Sheffield United boss Slavisa Jokanovic will tell Rhian Brewster following his red card drama
Rhian Brewster will be reassured about his role at Sheffield United when he returns to Bramall Lane ahead of Saturday’s game against Stoke City, as Slavisa Jokanovic and his coaching staff attempt to prevent the centre-forward’s confidence taking another blow following his controversial red card for England under-21’s.
Having already endured a torrid 12 months since joining United in a £23.5m deal from Liverpool, Brewster’s year went from bad to worse when he was cautioned for a second time during the Young Lions’ Euro 2023 qualifier against Andorra.
Although the decision was lamentable - the hosts’ captain Eric Vales appearing to feign injury after claiming he had been elbowed - Brewster’s display before the second-half incident betrayed the fact his self-belief has now completely disappeared after scoring only once in 38 appearances for United.
Despite being keen to avoid increasing the spotlight on the youngster by talking publicly about the issue, The Star understands Jokanovic is likely to have a private conversation with Brewster ahead of this weekend’s Championship fixture. That is set to include a reminder from the Serb that the situation is salvageable provided Brewster continues to apply himself during training and follows the career development plan both he and his assistants have devised.
Lee Carsley, Jokanovic’s counterpart at the FA, adopted a different strategy immediately after the match at the Estadi Nacional, claiming Brewster “needs to learn” even though his tangle with Vales was “innocuous”.
Although the former United coach’s comment was probably born out of frustration - Brewster’s colleagues eventually taking the points courtesy of Emile Smith Rowe’s strike - Jokanovic is expected to adopt a different, more nuanced approach towards improving the 21-year-old’s performance levels.
Speaking earlier this week, Carl Asaba, who made 80 appearances for United before moving to City in 2003, insisted Brewster will eventually prove his worth thanks to his “work ethic” and willingness to sacrifice himself for the team.
“I genuinely think, in two or three years time, we’ll be looking at Rhian and saying ‘Thank goodness we didn’t sell him’ because he’s got so much talent,” Asaba said. “Clearly, things aren’t going how he would want at the moment. That’s obvious. But what I’ve noticed, and what I really like about him, is how he’s still tracking back and covering defensively whenever he comes on. Even though he’ll be desperate to get himself in and around the box to try and put one away.”
“That tells you something about his personality,” Asaba added. “And the fact he’s played for his country through the youth levels. You don’t kid so many managers and coaches. It’s impossible. So that tells you the ability is there. It’s just a case of bringing all of that together and confidence is such a big thing.”
With Billy Sharp in pole position to spearhead Jokanovic’s attack against Michael O’Neill’s side, Brewster could be forced to wait until the United captain suffers an injury or loss of form before being granted a chance to stake a claim for a starting role. But according to sources who have worked with him in the past, Jokanovic will attempt to ensure Brewster is in the right mental and physical shape to seize that opportunity whenever it arises by purposefully accentuating his strengths during their discussions before addressing any technical weaknesses.