Folk tend to forget that Prince Abdullah acquired half a football team and not half a club. Change of ownership at Sheffield United? We won’t have heard the half of it yet.
Ideally this column would be focusing on Leicester in the fifth round of the FA Cup. But the political upheaval is just too important to ignore amid fears that it could take months to resolve.
So sad that an on-field revival is coinciding with the sort of boardroom instability and uncertainty seemingly ingrained in the club’s DNA.
But we should not overlook or discount the man who has done most to bring stability to it – and who is suspected of triggering the current scenario.
I have no idea of the worth of the real estate involved in the Saudi Prince’s talks with Kevin McCabe on buying the whole caboodle. But I do have a fair idea of the value of the team. It has risen immeasurably since August, 2013, when the Prince landed 50 per cent of not a lot.
The reason for the upturn is the factor of which this column believes he should take greatest heed if he were to complete a buy-out seemingly dependent on reaching agreement on McCabe family assets within the club structure and not just the team part of it.
It is the last 18 months, under this manager, with the Prince evidently taking a back seat, that has created far more attractive conditions under the original power share agreement which appears to have provided for one buying out the other.
There’s now a glimpse of the Premier League – where the real rewards are – and the squad can be conservatively valued at £30m plus. If anyone thinks that’s far-fetched, well, one player – and we know who he is – might fetch half that. In an inflated market, fees running into millions would be commanded by several others secured on long-term deals.
That is down to Chris Wilder and being allowed a hands-on role, increasingly rare these days. It would be foolish to do anything to disrupt it.
Another consideration facing the Prince and his backers has nothing to do with money. In fact, you can’t put a value on it. Trust. From staff and supporters. Not easily earned – but it has to be for owners to succeed.
For all his critics, and the occasional bad calls for which he has accepted responsibility, I think it’s fair to say McCabe has had the trust of the majority of Blades fans. Rightly so, in my opinion. A supporter at his core, financially committed to the tune of around £100m and genuinely with the club’s best interests at heart. Crucially, too, he has had Wilder’s trust and that alliance has underpinned the revival.
Do I think McCabe is walking away willingly? Absolutely not. Good sources suggest he may have effectively instigated this whole situation by making an offer to the Prince which, if rejected, gave the other partner a similar option. Why then if McCabe wants to stay? Was it to force the issue, put pressure on his somewhat estranged partner?
Knowing McCabe’s character – I doubt he would object to “stubborn bugger” (remember Tevez) – we haven’t heard the last of all this by a long way. He is also no stranger to Bramall Lane ownership struggles going back to the 1990s. And I’ve always dropped his retirement hints into the Neil Warnock file, labelled “sometime never.” All this is not to say necessarily that the Prince couldn’t be a committed and resourceful club owner, despite his apparent failure to deliver promises of significant financial support in the January window.
United need new money, though good custodianship is worth more.
That said, his parallel planned investment in a Belgian club is baffling.
What worries you is the effect this might have on the atmosphere around the club and indeed the morale of the manager. I’d hazard a guess he would be less likely to be tempted away with McCabe at the helm. Let’s call him “the devil you know.”
Hopefully the speediest possible resolution to an unfortunate and complicated business.