Here’s the bottom line if you are a third tier team trying not to lose a talented player in the face of higher interest – how on earth do you prevent it?
Answer. Only by winning promotion to the Championship and preferably the Premier League also. And even then you can only keep SOME of your best players, not necessarily all.
Between those two chicken-and-egg scenarios lies the treacherous ground Sheffield United occupy when it comes to holding on to players like Che Adams and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, either (or both) of whom could be the latest to be lost to being in League One.
Now I’m no apologist for the club’s hierarchy. Too many of the better players have been sold across too many years. In an ideal world United would have managed to keep a few. Maybe then they would have been high enough up the scale to stop the vicious circle.
But when you focus on specific cases – as per currently – it’s very difficult to know what the club can do, beyond negotiating a fair price, if the rumoured Premier League/ Championship interest hardens.
I wonder whether this explains why, in Adams’ case, the speculation appears to have surfaced locally first. Was it an exercise in softening the blow, lessening the shock? If so, it opened a window for clear thinking on the realities of the situation.
Then again, Everton’s interest in Calvert-Lewin leaked on Merseyside.
Who in their right mind would want Adams to leave? His developing partnership and understanding with Billy Sharp was the one redeeming, hopeful feature of last season. Apart from needing a target man for variety,
Chris Wilder has been able to focus his strengthening elsewhere (now three signings and counting), knowing he had a real goal threat – and an even more productive one with quicker forward delivery.
Anything under £1m should be brushed aside. But if the bid is realistic for a promising youngster at this level, and the lad himself wants to go, what do you do? Rather than risk resentment and negating his ability, you’d have little option but to deal. Same with Calvin-Lewin, who has come from much deeper under the radar.
Two riders here, though. They are developing through playing and should beware the mothball effect of a Premier League squad, however much they’re paid.
More crucially, Wilder should be allowed to re-invest all of any fees. His budget was/is tight.
This could be a way to strengthen the team across the board, allowing that an effective League One replacement is found.
Plainly, this didn’t happen, for whatever reason, when Jamie Murphy joined Brighton last summer for upwards of £1.5m.
But it could also be argued United had an overloading issue. The need to shed players has delayed the current recruitment process. Otherwise, you perpetuate the problem. And everyone can accept United must have better value for money after so much has been wasted.