EDIN Dzeko hates people calling him a ‘super-sub’.
The £27 million Bosnian striker has scored several important goals this season, having come off the bench, to revive Manchester City, the Premier League champions, flagging fortunes. He might not like the tag but he has a knack of popping up in the right place, at the right time.
But when I glance at Sheffield United’s bench, I don’t see who could be their Dzeko. I don’t see who could come on and make a match-winning contribution when required to step up to the plate.
All I see are promising, young kids, promoted from within or signed on a temporary basis - John Cofie - papering over the cracks. Some of them who featured in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in midweek are young enough to still be at school!
If Richard Cresswell and Danny Coyne are removed from the equation, manager Danny Wilson named a bench boasting an average age of 20.6 against Port Vale.
Putting your faith in youth will pay off in the long-term. But the above statistic highlights the lack of strength in depth United possess.
Both Wilson and defender Matt Hill have expressed concerns that a spate of injuries or suspensions could leave the club vulnerable over the festive period.
Hill said: “We have been fortunate when we have had injuries previously that the lads who have come in and have done really well. You need a bit of luck do be up there.
“If we are fortunate enough that people don’t pick up injuries over the Christmas period, then we have got a good chance of doing well. Hopefully we will get through Christmas and we will still be riding high.”
One of my brother’s refers to substitutes as ‘game changers’. When managers make enforced or tactical personnel alterations, they clearly hope the players brought on slot into position effortlessly and influence the team’s performance in a positive manner.
Neil Warnock, the former Blades chief, is a master of mixing things up by utilising his bench.
Indeed, one of the canny changes he made in last weekend’s Yorkshire derby victory over Huddersfield Town paid dividends immediately.
Ryan Hall came on in the final half-hour and terrorised the hosts back four and created the side’s third and fourth goals.
Managers are paid to make the big decisions. Their bold choices don’t always work but they look spectacular when they do come off.
Injuries and suspension have robbed Wilson of several key members of his squad in recent weeks and he can simply ill afford to be without players of the calibre of Kevin McDonald, Neill Collins and Dave Kitson for long stages of the season if United are to achieve their promotion objective.
Mark Howard (thigh) and defensive duo Tony McMahon and Hill (both hamstring) have also missed matches.
“We don’t have the biggest of squads,” he recently stated.
Successful teams, more often than not, tend to have someone up their sleeve who is capable of coming on and making a difference so don’t be surprised if Wilson goes in search of his own Dzeko in the January sales.