Examining Chris Wilder's Sheffield United war chest: Alan Biggs Column

There is nothing more critical than Chris Wilder knowing the exact amount he has to work with following the sale of David Brooks, except for knowing it quickly. My guess is he'll now have a fair idea.

Thursday, 5th July 2018, 1:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th July 2018, 1:55 pm
David Brooks this week left United for Bournemouth

That put the ball back in the court of Sheffield United’s owners amid their power battle and has needed the sort of mutual agreement that led to Wilder’s new deal and improved budget. The imminent appointment of a middle man trusted by both sides will, I believe, smooth this process.

Crucially, I don’t envisage any friction. It’s something Wilder would want to avoid, anyway, after bringing matters to a head last summer. He’ll see harmony as key - and it’s also likely the voice of the club, rather than just his own, will be heard in future.

All we know for sure is that the Blades boss is working with more than last season. Plus a chunk of the £12m-£15m fee from Bournemouth for Brooks. My guess would be around half, say £6m. Realism kicks in on the cost of running a club below the Premier League.

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How much for starters on the budget already set? Well, if you took a logical stab at a similar figure of about £6m for fees and wages, that’s nearly twice as much as last summer. Hardly a fortune in a league where £10m plus signings are becoming commonplace but arguably a workable amount for a management team of this resourcefulness.

As a total, my hunch would be around £12m. But don’t expect it to be trumpeted, whatever the figure. Bad for business as a buyer.

Another thing. In order to maintain the togetherness of a tight-knit squad, where pay differentials have to be earned and respected by the group, Wilder – as he’s explained – has to be going for players as good as, if not better, than those currently in the team.

The target range is not one player, but three or four – a centre back and two strikers, plus, let’s not forget, a replacement for Brooks as a sort of number 10.

Players have been earmarked for all valuation contingencies. The focus has been on ready-made Championship talent or loans from the Premier League. Everton’s former Blade Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a feasible subject of speculation along with Southampton’s Sam Gallagher. Equally, you can’t dismiss the policy of bringing younger, hungry players up a league or two, as with Jack O’Connell and John Fleck. For instance, I’d be surprised if Peterborough’s 23-year-old Jack Marriott (33 goals last season as a smaller, nippier type) has not been mentioned behind closed doors.

Derby, Bristol City, Leeds and Nottingham Forest have all been linked. Wilder will be mindful of not blowing all, or most, of his cash on one player, although some of the sums will have changed.

As for Brooks, it’s a story repeated many times over, not just at Bramall Lane. And will be in the future. . . until United are back in the Premier League and even then every player has his price.

He’ll have jumped nearly ten times in salary – from around £4,000 a week to about £30,000. After switching to a known-to-be-aggressive agent (which is another story), who’d honestly turn that down? Bournemouth looks a good footballing move, too, offering better early playing prospects than, say, Spurs. Good luck to a great talent.