James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: What O’Grady interest tells us about Nigel Clough’s plans

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Chris O’Grady, as everyone will be aware, joined Brighton and Hove Albion seven days ago.

A development which, given Nigel Clough’s interest in signing the former Barnsley centre-forward, means Sheffield United’s search for attacking reinforcements must continue for at least another week.

However, even though he won’t be sporting the famous red and white stripes next season, O’Grady’s presence on what I understand is a very short short-list of potential targets does provide us with plenty of clues about the type of player Clough is trying to recruit.

Despite his recent claim the only criteria those being considered for the vacancy must fulfil is “being a damn good player.” “We’re not bothered about anything else,” Clough continued. “The only thing that matters is quality. That’s all that counts.”

Personally, I beg to differ. Yes, it goes without saying the United manager will only bring someone on board he believes will embellish the options already at his disposal. Sunday morning cloggers need not apply.

But O’Grady, who on average finds the back of the net once every 4.13 games, has never been a prolific marksman. Instead, the 28-year-old’s strengths include linking up with those around him, bullying defenders and working with his back towards goal. So, given that United were prepared to consider spending the best part of £500,000 to bring O’Grady to Bramall Lane, it does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce they are also pursuing other strikers of the same ilk. Of course, fresh lines of enquiry could suddenly emerge in the transfer market which persuade Clough and his coaching staff to change tact. But their first preference is almost certainly someone from the O’Grady mould.

Marc McNulty made no secret of the fact he is best suited to working as part of a front two after completing his move from Livingston earlier this summer. Words which lend further weight to suggestions that Clough’s targets must be able to physically intimidate as well as pose a threat in the opposition’s final third.

His comments after O’Grady’s switch to the American Express Community Stadium was sealed also confirm United, despite clearly being willing to invest a significant sum to acquire the right man, are now determined to pay realistic rather than inflated wages.

“Any deal we do must be the right deal,” Clough said. Right, the inference clearly being, for the club rather than the player. This should be welcomed given the fact that spiralling salaries in the not so distant past contributed towards United slide from the top tier of English football to the third. Better to build solid foundations which encourage continuity. Not burden yourself with the type of commitments which require wholesale changes at first team level if results go awry.

Meanwhile, I read a fascinating piece on the internet about the Bass Charity Vase before last weekend’s friendly at Burton Albion. The trophy, which was presented to Gary Rowett’s side following their emphatic victory, is reputedly among the most valuable in the British game.

It’s clearly a coveted piece of silverware in that part of the world. Albion’s squad were serenaded with David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ when they prepared to lift this pretty hefty cup. All very stirring stuff. So I don’t mind admitting to being a shade disappointed when I spotted the winners and losers medals being handed-out from a carrier bag. It’s a terrific cause and has raised plenty of money for local charities. But next year, gentleman, please use accessories with a little more class.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1