It’s all about the goals, stupid.
With a defence which conceded less than a goal a game last season still intact ahead of tonight’s curtain-raiser with Notts County, Sheffield United’s fortunes are likely to depend upon their ability to turbo-charge an attack whose failings contributed to the South Yorkshire club’s presence and subsequent defeat in May’s League One play-offs.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of David Weir’s embryonic reign, references aside, is the speed with which he has identified and then attempted to address the weaknesses of the squad he inherited from Danny Wilson two months ago.
The arrival of Febian Brandy and Lyle Taylor have increased United’s options in the final third while subtle tactical tweaks, including the deployment of Kevin McDonald in a traditional ‘number 10’ role, have delivered performances and results during recent friendlies.
Nevertheless, despite breezing into Bramall Lane armed with testimonies from some of management’s most respected figures, Weir is shrewd enough to know his tenure will ultimately be judged on whether he can achieve promotion.
Only a liar or a fool would dare to predict with any certainty how their favourite team will fare over the course of 46 games. But, having been granted access behind the scenes at United’s training camp in Scotland, I can assure supporters that if Weir and his staff do fail, it is not going to be through lack of effort or attention to detail.
It would be both impossible and unfair on everyone concerned to judge the worthiness of the new regime’s work by using its predecessors as a barometer. But the methods now being deployed are different. Those lucky enough to have observed United at work of late will testify to the atmosphere of professionalism and focus which has gathered above Shirecliffe since the appointment of Weir and his two assistants.
Prospective signings must now undergo a rigorous interview, lasting up to one-and-a-half hours, before receiving the green-light to come on board. At least one target is known to have been jettisoned after failing to create the desired impression during his grilling.
Weir has passed every examination so far with flying colours. The toughest, though, is yet to come. Translating pioneering thinking into points.