James Shield's Sheffield United Column:Â 'There is no sadder sight in football than seeing great sporting institutions fluttering their eyelashes at every passing billionaire.'
It has gone largely unnoticed thanks to football's lamentable deference to money. Been ignored by largeÂ sections of the media who, as the public loudly demands substance but privately helps its moguls pushÂ their clickbait agenda, are becoming increasingly obsessed with celebrity names.
But the Championship's greatest untold stories - Sheffield United's climb to the top of its rankings - is alsoÂ one of the most heartwarming in the game.
Why? Because Chris Wilder's squad owe their position to good play, good attitudes, good scouting andÂ coaching. Not the size of their owners' cheque books. Okay, as the January transfer window fastÂ approaches, when many of his team's nearest rivals are expected to spend big, United's manager probablyÂ quite fancies upsetting those hopeless romantics who remember the days when folk applauded skill andÂ bravery rather than an ability to splash the cash.
But a number of factors, including the battle for powerÂ between HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kevin McCabe, is likely to ensureÂ the strings around Wilder's transfer purse remain tight. They might, given the two can notÂ agree on how to match-fund fund one another, become even more constricted if his share of the Â£11.5mÂ AFC Bournemouth paid to sign David Brooks represents the entirety of United's latest recruitment pot.
Still, as events at Nottingham Forest last weekend proved, enforced prudence brings some benefits. It wasÂ there, after a 1-1 draw with Leeds, that the league leaders' latest opponentsÂ discovered heavyÂ investment comes at a price.
"He's put a lot of money into it," Forest defender Jack Robinson said, describing the moment EvangelosÂ Marinakis told Aitor Karanka's team it was promotion or the chop. "So there's a lot of ambition coming fromÂ him, and with the results we've been getting, he's not happy. We've got to improve quickly."
Although Karanka was delightedÂ when Marinakis sanctioned several expensive arrivals during the closeÂ season, he is unlikely to have appreciated the Greek shipping magnate's interference inÂ dressing room affairs.Â Indeed with Forest seventh in the table, only six points behind United, Karanka could be forgiven forÂ feeling it was uneccessary and premature.
But if a club's entire modus operandi is dependent upon one man's bank balance, or worse still aÂ consortium's, episodes like Marinakis' outburst are inevitable. The whole shebang is being funded by himÂ so it seems pretty fanciful, not to mention ungrateful, to take his money and then expect him to butt out. Life, let alone football, does not work like that.
United's boardroom issues need resolving. Otherwise even Wilder and his staff will find it difficult toÂ deliver continued success. But the club as a whole deserves better than to become some rich man's plaything. If things getÂ resolved and they fallÂ lucky, great.There is nothing sadder, however, than seeing great community and sporting institutions reduced to fluttering their eyelashes hoping to attract some passing billionaire.
Â Because that is not sustainable either. A mix ofÂ sensible investment, intelligence and youth development is. Even though they are pretty unsexy things.