It has been six months since HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was unveiled as Sheffield United’s co-owner.
The Saudi Arabian, a businessman and member of the Kingdom’s ruling family, agreed to invest in the League One club after securing a 50 per cent stake. As Nigel Clough’s side prepare for tomorrow’s visit to Swindon Town, and next month’s FA Cup semi-final against Hull City, he discussed his thoughts on recent events at Bramall Lane with The Star’s James Shield.
JAMES SHIELD: What impressions have you formed during your first six months as co-owner of Sheffield United?
PRINCE ABDULLAH: There are three. During the first half of the season, I thought we were very poor, definitely not promotion material. Now with few additions, I see that we have grit, determination and fire in the belly. I see a club hungry for promotion and able to go after it. Secondly, we are beginning to see the fruits of a management formula on and off the pitch that has the capacity to work for us in a big way and, finally, our fans are everything we assessed them to be before buying into the club. Indeed, they are even better than we thought. I am really proud to count myself a Blade.
JS: Naturally there have been highs and lows so, what is the most enjoyable aspect?
PA: I cannot hide it. I like winning. I like clean sheets. I like posting points on the league table. The FA Cup run has been a highlight. The undefeated run has been a highlight. The record setting run of clean sheets has been a highlight. I have also enjoyed watching the lads play for each other and hearing our fans sing the lads on to victory.
JS: And the most disappointing?
PA: The worst day was perhaps the first match I saw at Rotherham last Fall. I thought then that we had a great deal of work before us. Of course, there was nothing for it, but to settle in for a long hard effort.
JS: A disappointing start, change of manager, FA Cup run and now improved results in the league, is it fair to say you have experienced nearly everything English football has to offer since joining United?
PA: It’s seemed like a roller coaster at times. I am really glad to be having this experience and to have it with Sheffield United. God willing, I hope to see the club through to a long run in the top flight. For now, we will battle on, slogging it out one day at a time.
JS: What plans do you have for next season?
PA: My plan is to stick with the plan that we have. It’s working. We have the right management team resourced at the right levels doing the right things. Results will come, if we remain resolute and roll with the punches.
JS: Are there any new ideas, away from the actual team itself, that you would like to implement and which can be shared?
PA: Winning is the new idea, and it is taking hold, I think. As to specifics of our plans, we prefer to do less talking and more executing. We will continue to listen closely to our fans and to seek to grow the fan base. And we will work to fix the things that are not working. We know there is much to do. We know we can do better by all parts of our community, including our team, staff, fans, sponsors, neighbours and greater Sheffield. We cannot do all we would like to at once. But we can work through the issues with earnest determination, moving as quickly as we can.
JS: Are you promoting United in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East? If so, how?
PA: Awareness of the club has gone up in Saudi. There is even an Arabic language fan page. But we have been focused principally on basics in Sheffield and for the stage that we are in, that’s still the right approach.
JS: What are your thoughts on reaching the FA Cup semi-finals?
PA: No one expected this. I have been over the moon about it. I can’t wait to join our amazing supporters at Wembley and to cheer for our lads as they fight for their place in English football history. Chances like these are always earned, never flukes. Sheffield United has earned its place on that stage and I am sure our lads will go out there and give everything they have for each other, for the fans and for glory.
JS: And on the qualities of Nigel Clough?
PA: Nigel is doing a fine job. He has a combination of attributes that are perhaps rare in his trade; humility, integrity, toughness, insight, a common touch and class. He knows the sport as few do and he has vision. He can see the short term in its proper relationship to the long term and he is patient and intuitive.
JS: Where and what sort of club would you like United to be in five years time?
PA: My ambition is that by then we will be playing in good form in the top flight. I believe that is do’able. I am under no illusions about the difficulty involved in doing that, but I am committed.
JS: And, finally, what would you say United’s best quality or most valuable asset is?
PA: Without hesitation, I would say that our supporters are the club’s most powerful, most valuable, most enduring asset. Other things may rust and crumble and require repairs and replacement. But we have fans who truly love the club and have committed themselves and their families to the club and all that it stands for.