Alan Biggs at Large: High turnover of long-serving Sheffield United players inevitable next summer
While I don’t think a manager as proven as Slavisa Jokanovic should be summarily judged on this season, the pressure on Sheffield United as a club is palpable.
The promotion objective is effectively a final push for the core group in Jokanovic’s squad as a collective.
Whether the Blades go up or not, a high turnover of long-serving players looks to be inevitable next summer.
And the United hierarchy would be far better placed to implement it in the Premier League, given the financial rewards - albeit that the job would still be a great deal more expensive than the powers that be might like.
Stay down and United would be faced with a choice between keeping on a squad in danger of going stale and freshening it with equivalent quality.
When you look at the calibre of performer at the heart of this, a replacement mission wouldn’t be cheap either.
Individually all the players about to be mentioned below have more to give in their careers. We’re talking more about chemistry as a group and the inevitability of needing to spruce things up.
Time is a stalker in football. By early next season, the players concerned will be;-
36 (Billy Sharp), 34 (Chris Basham and David McGoldrick), 32 (Enda Stevens), 31 (John Fleck and Oliver Norwood), 29 (John Egan and George Baldock).
Again, every single one of them has been a brilliant servant of the club. Some are still performing superbly well.
Not one can be written off, at Bramall Lane or anywhere. But as a group of supreme pros - around which so much has been built - can that be so true in the future?
I’d imagine that Chris Wilder, the manager who signed most of them and welded them as a unit, knew that this season would be a gateway to change.
So it’s big for them all. Even bigger for the club.
I think it’s correct that these players retain faith right now. They have earned it. Also it’s fair to believe that they are capable of being at the centre of a team that climbs into contention at the very least.
But the stakes are highest in the boardroom. Because to move on from some of these proven performers will be extremely tough.
A team as settled and successful as this has been comes round all too infrequently.
In the meantime, with some attacking potency and athleticism having been added to the mix, how the season unfolds will have a vital bearing on future years.