Alan Biggs: confidence in Sheffield United’s plan to bounce back has declined

When Sheffield United were promoted to the Premier League relegation was part of “The Plan.” Part of a larger plan, that is.

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 12:00 pm

For instance, I understand there is a 50% wage cut built into all playing contracts.

Is that plan - to have the strength to bounce back quickly - still intact? How damaging the events in between?

The challenge for owner Prince Abdullah - and no flinching from this - is to ensure that the Blades’ billing as a resilient Burnley or Norwich has not been ripped up by the loss of the manager who created it.

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Rhian Brewster is among those expected to improve next season.

Let’s be clear. It’s not a long-term rebuilding project that’s being demanded by fans here. Not a low budget progression based on the promotion of youth, however laudable.

No, it’s a promotion team funded by two seasons in the Premier League, not one.

Acting manager Paul Heckingbottom was so right on two things after relegation was confirmed;-* Pointing to the strong response of the three clubs who dropped last season, Norwich and Watford (both already promoted) and Bournemouth, who could also bounce straight back.* Emphasising the need to keep the squad as intact as possible.

You might have heard some of this somewhere before.

Admittedly, some of the bigger signings failed in this second season, for which the legendary Chris Wilder took ultimate responsibility by the loss of his job, a departure actually prompted by a loss of faith in his methods.

Yet he would not have been blamed for a predictable relegation in the previous season - when finishing ninth was an outstanding achievement that has been almost airbrushed from memory and which set him up to fail by comparison.

The difference has been failing to step up to financing proven top level recruitment. As simple as that; hence mistakes made on players for development in place of the above.

One thing for sure is that Wilder’s players would have stayed loyal. Can we be sure of that now?

So it’s an unstable situation in place of what would have been a confident expectation of a promotion bid next season.

The choice and appointment of the next manager, plus his job specification, will tell us a lot about the board’s ambitions.

Until then, it would be unfair to judge. Except that standards have been set by a football team that outstripped the performance of a football club, thanks to the previous boss.

He was always going to take some replacing. Unless it is someone of real stature in the game, the going will be tough, certainly in terms of buy-in from supporters.