Alan Biggs at Large: It is not a crime for Sheffield United owner to lack funds to fuel supporters' ambitions

Can a power share add clout to Sheffield United for another assault on the Premier League?

Wednesday, 8th September 2021, 10:02 am
Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

High on quality, low on quantity (wingers especially) is the balanced rating from here of transfer window dealings that only just beat the shutters.

Loans were the plan even before the manager change - and no argument on the calibre of Ben Davies, Conor Hourihane, Morgan Gibbs-White and Robin Olsen.But the shape of the future, and funding it, remains central to addressing how the impetus of finishing an over-achieving ninth in the Premier League evaporated so quickly.

And not for the fault of any one individual considering the pandemic’s part in a lethal cocktail of circumstances.Neither is it a crime for an owner to lack the personal resources to fuel the ambitions of a football club’s supporters.What’s usually required is a willingness to dig a bottomless pit, for which there is little thanks in return.

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Certainly not a weakness, either, to try to keep a club financially stable. Indeed, more of that is needed. And if this one would like to make a profit, as he’s indicated, well, that’s honest.

But what is open to question - as per here in the past - is not attempting to bridge the gap on necessary funding, or at least not appearing to do that.

So I thought it was both significant and welcome to hear Prince Abdullah tell supporters in an excellent chat on the “Sheff United Way” YouTube channel that he was seeking “partners.”We cannot be entirely sure, of course, that he has not tried to do this before.

Only that there has been no discernible attempt to attract investment or share control at Bramall Lane.Encouraging also to hear the owner pledge to do things differently on recruitment if/ when the Blades return to the Premier League.

If the current hierarchy cannot develop a club that was competing for a place in Europe less than two years ago then nearly 30,000 match-going fans would doubtless wish for it either to find wealthy partners or sell to those who can.Keeping personalities out of it, I believe - as argued here previously - that United’s state of drift and decline goes back to the summer of 2020.

They had exceeded all expectations on the back of a strong core squad and recruitment of players for development rather than proven top talent.It was a sound post-promotion plan building in a high possibility of relegation and the prospect of a rapid bounce-back in that event.But over-achieving put the onus on the club to kick on with a couple of established top flight imports.This required a significant lifting of the pay ceiling.

When this proved either impossible or off limits, the only choice was to recruit more development players and it has to be admitted that some of these haven’t delivered to the justification of their fees.But it was here that the Blades missed the boat and by the time relegation was confirmed it had long since sailed.

Which brings us back to the fundamental point of funding for now and in the future.If the current ownership cannot provide it, or is unwilling to jeopardise the club, then there is absolutely no shame in that.But it’s encouraging to hear recognition of the need because a way has to be found to define a shared sense of re-direction.

And best if, in the short term at least, it comes from a squad that should be doing much better.It must be acknowledged also that quality costs and the four loan imports - all coming from top clubs - will have demanded a hefty commitment on wages.