Kevin Gage's quarterly Sheffield United report

Blades boss Chris Wilder
Blades boss Chris Wilder
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No game last weekend, but seeing as we’ve now played 11 of our 46 league games, I thought it’s maybe time for individual appraisals of the main first team players so far. So here’s my:  QUARTERLY REPORT

THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

Goalkeeper Simon Moore

Goalkeeper Simon Moore

Simon Moore: GRADE A - An inspired signing, and at just the right time to quell defensive jitters. An imposing physical presence & importantly, great communication skills. When allied to his sound handling technique & shot-stopping, we now have a top class keeper.

Jack O’Connell: GRADE B - Recovered from costly errors in two early games to look commanding & assured. Strong, comfy on the ball & a left footed centre-back is always a bonus. Big enough & strong enough…..which helps.

Jake Wright: GRADE B+ - A experienced leader & organizer of the defensive unit. Steady & unspectacular and hasn’t put a foot (or head) wrong in the games played. Can he cope in League One in a 4-4-2 system or is he best suited to 3-5-2?

Ethan Ebanks-Landell: GRADE B+ -.he’s filling the void of ‘crowd favourite’ at the moment, & if he continues to be the dominant, tough, ‘head-it-and-kick-it’ Chris Morgan type centre-half we’ve lacked in recent years, he may just turn into a SUFC cult-hero. Has made one back-pass error & it cost a goal. Enough. Please.

Chris Basham

Chris Basham

James Wilson: GRADE C - Maybe unfortunate to lose his place, but defence needed strengthening at the time. Good cover to have though.

WIDER ISSUES

Kieron Freeman: GRADE A -.A revelation since being given his opportunity, and a perfect fit in the wing-back role. His next aim is to maintain his performance level & make us forget completely about our previous right-back…. John who?

Danny Lafferty: GRADE C - Obviously a decent player due to his career history & an international to boot , but yet to really find his feet as a Blade. Best is yet to come maybe?

Billy Sharp celebrates

Billy Sharp celebrates

Chris Hussey: GRADE C - Like with James Wilson, experienced difficulties as the defence struggled in early days. Superb deliveries from his left foot & will play a part this season I’m sure.

THE MIDDLE GROUND

Paul Coutts; GRADE A - Most improved player this season so far. A calming influence when possession is needed, and in past few games getting forward more to strike at goal. All teams need creative players, and he is one of our best. If he stays injury-free & fully fit, he will be vital to our success this season.

Chris Basham: GRADE B - Mr Versatile, and a managers dream with his commitment, drive & enthusiasm. We know his limitations, but usually forgive him. Will he get back into the midfield after his recent red card? Competition for places is now hot, and he may miss out. However, if so, he’ll keep all others on their toes as he can ‘do a job’ anywhere.

John Fleck: GRADE C - Another player yet to find his true form, but we’ve seen a few flashes of it. Combative, tidy in possession & an eye for a shot at goal. When fully fit & settled in, may prove a perfect foil for Coutts in the centre of the pitch.

Mark Duffy: GRADE B - Very good, all-round, creative footballer. He wants to drift inside & get involved in the play & is constantly looking for the ball. He’ll see and attempt passes few others will, but even though not everything comes off, he doesn’t stop trying. He’ll only get better with more games & more confidence. In a very good team, he’ll shine even brighter.

Stefan Scougall: GRADE C+ - A bit hit and miss so far. Sometimes better as an impact sub to buzz around tired defenders. A nuisance to teams more than a worrying threat but on his day can cause real problems due to his direct running with the ball.

BEING UPFRONT

Billy Sharp: GRADE B - battling, bustling Billy is still the man you want a chance to fall to in the opposition penalty area. Five goals already & on course for twenty again I hope. He may run out of steam after 60-70 mins but we’ll happily take that for the time being.

Matty Done: GRADE C+ - A grade to reflect the numerous missed chances this season, chances he’d usually take. Effort & miles covered per game always superb. A constant threat with his running in behind defenders. Can also naturally drift wide & deliver a decent cross. Just need him to be more clinical with his finishing….

Leon Clarke: GRADE D - Maybe a harsh grade but hasn’t looked the part since signing. Clearly not yet up to full fitness nor speed, so we await his impact. If he makes one later in the season it could be just what we need to give us some power up front.

THE BOSS: GRADE A - I have it on good authority from non-football staff at the club that Chris has been “a breath of fresh air” behind the scenes. In comparison to last season, make of that what you will. On the pitch, he’s shown decisive leadership by not only radically changing the personnel in the team, but also the whole shape/formation. He quickly saw what & who was required and acted. We are quickly turning into a Chris Wilder team…hard to beat, strong, enthusiastic, committed etc etc. As a Blade himself, he knows what we want to see from our side, and will deliver it.

OVERALL: GRADE B+ - Still a long way to go, but we’re now on track after early season wobbles. If we can develop further as a team & improve our quality of play in certain areas, we will be challenging for one of those top two places at the very least. This team can get a lot better, but so far, and certainly from our seven league game unbeaten run, so good. We’re going in the right direction. UP!