Danny Hall's Sheffield United Column: The Blades might never have a better chance of reaching the Premier League and establishing themselves as dominant force in the Steel City for years to come

Let me say from the outset; I think Tyler Smith is a wonderful player.Â

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 7:14 pm
Updated Friday, 14th December 2018, 7:31 am
Tyler Smith of Sheffield Utd during pre-season training: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Raw pace, finishing ability. That 'eye for goal' that everyone talks about yet so few possess. Regular visitors to Stocksbridge to watch United's U23s will recognise it; a quick look on YouTube will confirm it, including a superb hat-trick away at Burnley in a 6-1 Blades victory.

It is that promise, plus a profitable loan spell at Barrow in the Conference Premier, that has put Smith on standby for a possible Blades debut tomorrow night, when Chris Wilder's men face West Brom live on Sky Sports at Bramall Lane.

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There are few better sights in football than a player coming through the academy and 'making it' in the first team of his hometown club, even if those instances are becoming increasingly rare.

From that point of view, and having seen him often on the mudheaps at Stocksbridge, I'm delighted for Tyler, his family and coaches, and hope he can take his chance if and when it comes.

This column is no reflection on him, personally or as a player. But the nagging concern is that, at this crucial stage of the campaign and with just one injury, his chance has arisen so easily '“ and, in doing so, has highlighted at least one glowing weakness in the depth of Wilder's squad.

United, for reference, are third in the Championship and can go to within three points of leaders Norwich, for a few hours at least, if they beat West Brom. The prizes for Premier League promotion don't need repeating; not just financially, either.

With city neighbours Wednesday floundering [and no matter how much fans protest otherwise, that matters] has there been a better chance in recent history for United to really establish themselves as the dominant force in the Steel City?

This correspondent has no exact knowledge of Wilder's January transfer budget, but all the auxiliary noise '“ not least with co-owners Prince Abdullah and Kevin McCabe locked in a battle for sole control '“ suggests it will be below what many predicted. It's always easier to spend someone else's money, of course, and both men are understandably reluctant to plough money in when the club's future is in the balance.

But the nagging doubt remains. Will United ever have a better chance to reach the top-flight, with one of their own at the helm and so much goodwill helping them every step of the way?

Wilder's admission that his January business will be temporary could work two ways. Is it his choice? [After all, quality costs, on a permanent basis at least]. Or is it a consequence of his budget? Being honest, I suspect the latter, although would be delighted to be proved wrong.

As for Smith, he may seize his chance and take everyone by surprise '“ Marcus Rashford, anyone? '“ and again, I sincerely hope he does.

But as they prepare to face £12m England international Jay Rodriguez and £10m loan star Dwight Gayle, the question seems pertinent '“ should Smith be anywhere near the squad of a team pushing for the Premier League? Again, the nagging doubt remains.