James Shield's Sheffield United Column: My (possibly) bright idea for this summer's transfer window and beyond
It might be an inspired proposition. Or, alternatively, a bloody stupid idea.
But challenging times demand creative thinking and, as Chris Wilder has intimated on several occasions recently, times are pretty challenging at Sheffield United right now.
So, despite the risk of sounding ridiculous, I’m going to make this recommendation anyway. Sheffield United should consider signing just one player during the summer transfer window. Because, although it is far from ideal, this could represent their best and most cost effective way of improving a squad which appears tantalisingly close to being serious promotion contenders. But in truth, lacks that little bit of magic, that sprinkling of genius required to mix it with the majority of those clubs who maintained their push for a top six place. January’s defeat by Aston Villa, when after being pounded for 90 minutes Steve Bruce’s side claimed a last gasp win thanks to Robert Snodgrass’ exemplary strike, served as an unwelcome reminder about its importance.
Nevertheless, although that result and last month’s dispiriting draw with Cardiff City are often referenced, games against teams in the lower reaches of the Championship are arguably where United tripped themselves up. Largely, despite scoring twice during a recent defeat at Barnsley, because they struggle to translate dominant periods into an avalanche of goals. A failing which places an uncomfortable spotlight on Wilder’s defence and illuminates mistakes which, if things were different, would probably be forgotten by everyone apart from the 50-year-old and his staff.
Although those fixtures against the leading names were not United’s undoing, what they did prove was the worth of absolutely top class talent. When Wilder’s team travelled to Fulham two months ago, the Londoners did not establish any sort of foothold until Aleksandar Mitrovic, signed on loan from Newcastle, converted twice in quick succession. Not from gilt-edged openings. But half chances.
Of course, players like the Serbian come at a price, the type of which United, even before their co-owners became embroiled in a battle for sole control, probably will find it difficult to afford.
But assuming some money is available for new additions, and having seen Wilder’s present group of players compete quite comfortably with most of the division’s supposed powerhouse names, there is a solution to this seemingly unexcogitable problem. Rather than recruiting three or four new faces, United could plough all of their resources into signing one. Providing it is someone capable of really making a difference.