Alan Biggs: 'Lucky' Slavisa Jokanovic has a longer-term Sheffield United project he needs to start working on

You make your own luck in life so it’s no slur to call Slavisa Jokanovic a “lucky” manager.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 11:58 am

But he is lucky in that the luck he has made for himself in a highly successful career includes taking over a Sheffield United squad capable as it stands, in my view, of a strong promotion push next season.

And yet I think any manager moving into Bramall Lane would be deeply mindful already of the season after that, whether still in the Championship or back in the Premier League.

The fact is you can’t stand still, or risk being overtaken, and time is catching up on this Sheffield United team. If not now then certainly in the next two years.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Slavisa Jokanovic will officially begin his tenure as Sheffield United manager at the end of the month
Slavisa Jokanovic will officially begin his tenure as Sheffield United manager at the end of the month

So some degree of freshening up, with the accent on youth, is called for. You only have to glance across to the other side of the city to see where being loyal to all core players ultimately leads.

Let’s look at the sort of line-up that, fitness all round permitting, I guess most of us might pick if there happened to be a game tomorrow;-Ramsdale; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Berge, Fleck, Norwood, Stevens; McGoldrick, Jebbison.Average age, 28.2 years. No great alarm, though pushing it a bit.

Now take away Ramsdale and Berge (both 23 with the latter likely on the move) and Bettison (18 next month).

Of the rest, five are over 30 and the youngest of the other three is Egan, 29 in October.

Not saying any of these players is past their prime, certainly not for the Championship, and some have hit a career peak going into what might be termed the veteran stage.

But, as a collective for the style of front foot football Jokanovic favours as much as Wilder did, the group has to be remoulded at some stage, if not immediately.

This was on the former manager’s agenda, for sure. It’s not about the individual but the whole.

Athleticism has become ever more important in football, words like speed, agility, stamina. And if you’ll permit another peek across the city, this I think is where Sheffield Wednesday were most caught out, rather than in individual failings.

So, while confidence in most of this squad for the coming campaign is justified, I reckon there will a great deal more upheaval next year, in whatever division.

And that needs planning for right now, again a failure across the city in neglecting to plot ahead.

Jokanovic certainly won’t need telling that his new job involves far more than the here and now.

He’s cute enough to stay “lucky.”