Sheffield United: Blades look to establish partnership with giants

Selahattin Baki
Selahattin Baki
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Sheffield United hope to cement a relationship with Fenerbahçe by hosting the Turkish giants in a friendly at Bramall Lane next season, The Star understands.

Led by United director Selahattin Baki, a party of United delegates - which also included fellow board member Jim Phipps - successfully negotiated the prestigious friendly, against last season’s Turkish Spor Toto Super League champions.

The schedules of the two clubs couldn’t allow the game to take place before the start of the new League One campaign - but the plans have not been shelved completely, and it could still take place - either in mid-season, or at the end of the next campaign.

Baki, who joined the Bramall Lane board after Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad acquired a 50% stake in United’s football operations, also enjoys close links with the richest club in Turkey, and is keen to establish a relationship between South Yorkshire and the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium.

“Jim and I tried to organise a pre-season game, between Sheffield United and Fenerbahçe, and both clubs agreed to play a game at Bramall Lane,” Baki said.

“But we could not agree on the dates... but we’ll try again, either mid-season or at the end of it.”

Talks aimed at establishing an informal link-up between the two sides began late last year, while similar plans with Al-Hilal, where Prince Abdullah holds an honorary position, are also thought to have been discussed.

“It’s something in the future I would love to do,” Baki admitted.

“There are many possibilities and the contacts to try and make it possible.

“Whether or not it is, time will tell, but it is definitely something we shall be trying to do. I know people at Fenerbahçe, and, of course, the Prince is connected with Al-Hilal so why not?

“If we are successful, it could lead to us [United] playing friendly tournaments against both sides which, hopefully, is something the fans would enjoy.

“I think you must always look to give something back to the supporters. Football has become too much about commercial things which, of course, you have to have. But you must not forget about the fans.

“We will be trying hard to make our fans happy, and give something to them - but there could be other footballing advantages, too.”

Meanwhile, Mark Todd - the former United player - has praised skipper Michael Doyle for his work with the Bramall Lane club’s Community Foundation.

“Michael has beenfirst class,” Todd said. “We get on well, and he’s helped co-ordinate over 100 visits by players over the last 18 months. It’s a big inspiration to the kids to see the players, and we can’t thank him enough.”