Alan Biggs: How Sheffield United have reversed roles in the transfer market
David Brooks, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Che Adams. Three players who’d be near perfect for Sheffield United right now.
Players who left Bramall Lane on Chris Wilder’s watch. But that misses the main point completely.
Which is that Wilder has put the Blades in a position where they can now keep their best young talent. Or, as in the case of Aaron Ramsdale, re-sign it; the goalkeeper being another promising player he traded.
The latter might not be the preferred way, with Ramsdale sold for £800,000 and bought back at a value of £18m, albeit substantially reduced by the original sell-on agreement with Bournemouth.
In similar deals early in Wilder’s reign, Calvert-Lewin was scooped up by Everton at £1.5m and Adams joined Birmingham for £2m before moving to Southampton.
Both strikers impressed in the Premier League last season, the prolific Calvert-Lewin especially. Brooks has shown well, too, having cost Bournemouth a more realistic £11m later in United’s progression.
The common denominator, though, with all four is that they were far from the finished product when leaving Bramall Lane and neither were Sheffield United when it came to top flight aspirations.
Wilder had to be pragmatic. The ends far outstripped the means when it came to his approach to strengthening his side at various stages.
It’s a tribute to his work that United are now playing a different ball game - up to a point.
There are only a dozen or so clubs in the world who can safely say they can keep who they want. And even those elite outfits are not immune to market forces, or blinkered to the fact that players have to be sold as well as bought.
The Blades are likely never going to be in a position where they can pull down the shutters completely.
However, at a time when much work is going into upgrading an already productive, not to say revered, academy set up, it is telling that United can be in the market now for precisely the sort of emerging talent they routinely sold in the past.
Players coming to Bramall Lane across the past year to eighteen months fall into that same bracket. It is a sign of huge progress.