Let's get this straight from the off...Sheffield United fans have every right to be annoyed that transfer deadline day passed without the squad being strengthened.
It has been clear for the majority of this season so far that there are genuine weaknesses in personnel that needed to be addressed. Too many goals are being conceded, so whether Dan Burn of Fulham is capable of fixing that issue or not, there is at least the understanding that a central defender was key to any potential recruitment.
As well as that, there is a severe lack of creativity in midfield, with very few options available with the ability to change a game, leaving, as things stand, the tenacious Billy Sharp forging chances for himself and putting them away. Put simply, there is an over-reliance on the striker. Goalscorers don't come cheap though, so bringing someone in as a provider would make sense.
Some might argue that making two signings wouldn't be enough, but being pragmatic, let's say it would make a big difference at least. However, a solution to neither of those problem areas has been found, at this stage anyway, hence the frustration and in many cases anger, expressed by Blades fans this morning. That's entirely understandable, even if some of the comments on social media were more than a little extreme. They have been in this division for too long already and the thought of having to spend another in League One fills everyone with dread.
However, with tin hat on stand by, let's look at things from a different point of view.
The loan window opens up again next week. Yes, I am well aware that this sounds like an easy way out of a discouraging situation, but I remain firmly in the belief that loan deals, involving the right player of course, are key to slightly longer-term thinking.
It's one thing buying players to get you out of League One, but what happens if they can't cut it in the Championship (if they were good enough there's a fair chance they'd already be there and playing regularly) and the club are left overloaded by players of little use, on big wages and therefore hard to get rid of? You would find it very difficult to approach a player of sufficient quality currently in this league and say 'we think you're good enough to get us up, but we'll only give you a one-year deal because we're not sure you're THAT good.'
Signing a player, short-term, on the fringes of a well-placed Championship team would make a lot more sense, though obviously even they are hard to come by.
As Jim Phipps has pointed out, the squad is already too big. Too many players have been brought in, some on good wages, and are therefore difficult to shift. It should be pointed out, and the club hierarchy will, or at least should, be in agreement, that the current regime more than played its part in making that so, but there has to be a cut off point at some stage and they have chosen it to be now. Again, frustrating from a fans' perspective, but unfortunately necessary nonetheless.
January transfer windows are also notoriously difficult to work within. The board have stated there is cash to spend, but it can't be a bottomless jar and there is Salary Cost Management Protocol to contend with. At this stage of the season transfer costs are much higher, because every signing comes with an element of panic. Players know this, or rather players' agents do, and the selling club knows it too. There are various other factors to acknowledge. If a player is under contract he could want paid up by his current club. There could be others whose contract is up soon who may think it better to hang tight and negotiate better wages when moving on a free transfer. All this and more makes any deal more difficult to get over the line.
Then, of course you have to factor in Sheffield United's stature. This might sound like a far-fetched comparison, but United are operating in a relatively similar way to the bigger Premier League clubs. If Juventus, for example, try to sign a player and Liverpool also make a bid, you can guarantee the fee quoted to the Merseyside club will be a lot higher than the Italians would be asked to pay. Put simply traders know where the money is. Similarly, if United and, taking a random example from the competition at the minute, Peterborough make a move for a particular player, there will be a noticeable difference in fees. Being the big fish comes with costs.
But the light of the loan window keeps the tunnel manageable, as have some performances this season that have shown, though not often enough, the capabilities of the current team. It's been a hugely frustrating month, on and off the pitch for United, but there is a long way to go and there is no reason to believe that promotion definitely can't be achieved. Even if that's by way of the play offs when a top two place was all but expected at the beginning of the season.