Danny Hall: Sheffield United's next move after Robin Olsen's Aston Villa move will speak volumes about their promotion ambitions
The player wanted the move. His parent club wanted him to move. And despite any public declarations to the contrary, few at Sheffield United probably shed many tears when Robin Olsen’s loan spell at Bramall Lane was terminated earlier this week.
Up there with the worst-kept secrets of this transfer window, the Swede was subsequently unveiled as an Aston Villa player. Paul Heckingbottom, the United boss, admitted that the Blades sanctioned the early end of Olsen’s loan when the situation became “too difficult” behind the scenes.
Olsen used his first interview as a Villa player to admit he “decided to do whatever I could to change club and sign for Villa” when he heard about the Premier League club’s interest and even before such disrespectful comments, his time at Bramall Lane wouldn’t have been looked back on with any real fondness.
His departure does leave United with another transfer headache in this current window, though, and the direction they go in now could give a pretty clear clue about how the Bramall Lane hierarchy view this season.
Meet the released ex-Sheffield Wednesday man using Twitter to get his career back on track
Key man ruled out as Sheffield Wednesday travel to Peterborough United
Sheffield Wednesday: Unsavoury scenes as George Byers and Jamie Smith clash after Peterborough United substitution
'Really big' - Sheffield Wednesday's Carabao Cup details revealed as Rochdale's former Owl awaits return
Former Sheffield United striker Lys Mousset makes big fitness claim after finding new club
Olsen arrived on deadline day as a replacement for Arsenal-bound Aaron Ramsdale. With over 50 caps for his country, and four appearances at that summer’s European Championships, he was undoubtedly a coup for a club operating in the Championship and whatever misgivings then-Blades boss Slavisa Jokanović may harbour about the level of backing he received during his short tenure at Bramall Lane, he cannot complain about not being given a top goalkeeper.
To make a statement of their promotion intent, United needed to replace Ramsdale with comparable quality and although some of his performances for the club perhaps betrayed the fact, they did that.
The question is, what happens now?
Links with Frank Fielding and Adam Davies have flown round ever since news of Olsen’s imminent departure broke. Davies, who worked with Heckingbottom at Barnsley, has made 15 appearances for Stoke this season while Fielding, formerly of Bristol City and Derby, hasn’t played a Championship game since 2019.
Their respective CVs would suggest that neither are of comparable quality or standing to Olsen and links with Stoke’s fourth-choice goalkeeper are not, with the greatest of respect to a football career that far eclipses my wildest dreams, exactly a ringing endorsement of United’s promotion ambitions this season.
United pushed out the boat to sign Olsen, contributing a substantial fee towards subsidising his Roma wages and after the departure of Michael Verrips, whose wages far exceeded his on-field contributions at United, a huge sum has been saved on the payroll.
United’s hierarchy were clearly content to sanction such an outlay for the entire season when they signed Olsen. Cutting short his loan was an understandable move; as would effectively spreading the ‘saved’ money across a new goalkeeper and another problem position of centre half.
Alternatively, it could be swallowed up by the club in a bid to cover the losses incurred by relegation last season. The transfer window slams shut in 12 days – and by then, we’ll see how serious United really are about getting promoted back to the promised land this season.