As Sheffield United’s day of reckoning approaches Regional Sports Writer Of The Year Martin Smith looks at the effect relegation
IT COULD spark the biggest fire sale in Sheffield United history.
The Blades are on the brink of relegation to League One – four years after dropping out of the Premier League – and the club is expected to impose deep spending cuts and hard-line financial restructuring to adjust to the shock of life in football’s third tier.
Established players like £3million striker Ched Evans – believed to be on around £20,000 a week – Nick Montgomery, Darius Henderson, Stephen Quinn, Lee Williamson and Daniel Bogdanovic could all leave this summer as the club looks to halve its £10million a year wage bill.
As many as 10 first team players could be cut from the Blades’ books when the cold hand of relegation finally drags the club into the old Third Division.
And manager Micky Adams could be going with them.
After his team managed just nine points from a possible 51 since his arrival in January the luckless Blades boss’s future has to be in question.
United’s darkest day since 1988 could come this weekend if they lose to Bristol City at Bramall Lane and Crystal Palace win at Doncaster on Friday night.
Neither plc chairman Kevin McCabe or club Chief Executive Trevor Birch are willing to comment on the club’s plans unless and until the club is relegated but those inside the club are anticipating ‘a high turnover of players’ at the end of the season.
Behind the public face of ‘drop denial’ club officials are crunching numbers to calculate spending cuts to help the club – which posted a retained loss of £18.6m last year – to cope with a vastly reduced income.
The total cost of relegation will not be known for some time but:
Attendances are anticipated to fall from 20,000 this season to around 15,000 in League One
TV income will fall by £4million to £750,000 a season
PLC chairman Kevin McCabe has said ‘enough is enough’ after ploughing £50m into the club
On the plus side:
10,000 season tickets have been sold for next season – just 1,000 down on this time last year
The outstanding £15.5million Carlos Tevez compensation is due in instalments until 2013
An exciting crop of young players has reached the FA Youth Cup Final for the first time in the club’s history
The future already looked tight when United’s £18.5million retained loss was announced last December, although changes put in place by the club then made the stadium, academy and junior development centre free of debt, according to the club’s annual report, and the club hoped to be debt free by 2013.
Chief Executive Trevor Birch said at the time: “We can’t hide in the crowd – we have to take responsibility and we have to live within our means.”
Today those means look as though they will be considerably reduced and that life will be even tougher if it is in League One.
Lifelong Blade and editor of Blades fan magazine Flashing Blade Matthew Bell has no doubts: “I knew we were down after we lost those three games in a row against Crystal Palace, Scunthorpe and Derby. Fifteen years ago there would have been protests against the board but that doesn’t seem to happen as much now.
“Just a couple of years ago no-one thought we would be in this situation. We thought we might get relegated from the Premier League – that can always happen – but we didn’t think we’d end up going down to League One.
“I just accept relegation now. I’m beyond getting depressed about it all.”