Another what if? story for Sheffield United as Reading's John Swift puts Leeds United, Newcastle United on red alert with fine early-season form
Over the last couple of seasons, which have seen a global pandemic derail a bid for Europe and an iconic manager leave his job as his club slid towards relegation, there has been no shortage of ‘what if?’ moments for Sheffield United.
What if Covid-19 hadn’t hit, and would the Blades have actually got into Europe for the first time in their history? Would Chris Wilder still be at Bramall Lane? At least, surely the Blades would still be a Premier League club?
There’s always room for hindsight in the transfer market. What if Wilder had been allowed to push the button and sign Ben Davies, for a bargain price from Preston, before he went to Liverpool? We’ll never know what effect a competent replacement for Jack O’Connell would have had on United’s fortunes, but for the sums involved it seemed to many to be a gamble worth taking.
Another is John Swift. Identified by Wilder and his coaching staff last summer as a target and a replacement for John Lundstram, United attempted to exploit his contract situation at Reading by prising him away. The player was keen, too, but Reading valued their man at more than twice the £3.5m United were willing to pay for a man whose contract expires at the end of this current campaign.
It didn’t happen, Swift remained in Berkshire and has been in electric form this season, scoring eight times and registering six assists in his 14 appearances so far in 2021/22.
Unless they can regain Premier League status at the first attempt, and assuming Wilder’s predecessor Slavisa Jokanović would be interested, the Blades look to have missed the boat on Swift. The former Chelsea youngster is attracting interest from clubs such as Brentford, Newcastle United and Leeds United – and his former Reading teammate Charlie Adam isn’t surprised.
“His talent, and his goals and assists, shows he can go and play at Premier League level – but it’s getting that opportunity,” said Adam.
“Sheffield United were interested in him when they were in the Premier League when I was at Reading.
“It’s going to be difficult to keep him at Reading. The longer his contract runs down, the club will have to look at selling him. He’s a talented player.”