Sheffield United: Keith Curle's expert insight on Charlie Goode and another deadline day story

The story of the transfer window at Sheffield United can be told through the names of the players they courted before choosing Charlie Goode.

Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 9:36 am

First they flirted with James Hill, before he joined AFC Bournemouth. Then, his fellow centre-half John Souttar.

But after getting the red carpet treatment during a guided tour around Bramall Lane, the Heart of Midlothian defender agreed a pre-contract with Rangers. “The steal of the century,” Craig Levein called it.

Crossed wires

Given there was never any prospect of officials in Edinburgh allowing the 25-year-old to depart on loan, Paul Heckingbottom was clearly working on the assumption at the beginning of the month that United’s deals would be permanent. But somehow, somewhere, wires had become crossed. Within days of seeing Souttar lured away to Ibrox, United’s recruitment gurus began compiling a list of potential loan signings - a process which, after also considering Liverpool’s Rhys Williams, eventually saw them broker a loan agreement for Brentford defender Goode.

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“I’m aggressive, I like to be involved but also try and bring the ball out from the back,” he said after being unveiled before the deadline. “One thing you can guarantee is that I’ll leave it all out there. I’m desperate to play and be involved.”

Heckingbottom steps up

Keith Curle, the Northampton Town manager celebrates with team captain Charlie Goode after winning the Sky Bet League Two Play Off Final between Exeter City v Northampton Town at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Although United’s search for a new centre-half has dominated the news agenda in recent weeks, the flurry of names being linked with moves to South Yorkshire has distracted attention from another fascinating development. Previously in charge of the club’s under-23’s team and a former caretaker manager, many observers painted Heckingbottom as a lackey for the board when he was appointed in November.

It was an unfair and inaccurate portrayal, given that he had proven himself a talented if slightly unlucky head coach during spells with Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian before accepting the invitation to join United’s academy. But given that his two most recent predecessors - Chris Wilder and Slavisa Jokanovic had both departed in pretty acrimonious circumstances - also an easy one to make.

Over the past few weeks, however, Heckingbottom has changed perceptions as well as results. Before leading United to victory over Peterborough last weekend - their fifth win in seven Championship outings under his command - the 44-year-old demonstrated that, far from being a puppet, he is prepared to criticise the hierarchy if he sees fit. Albeit, after complaining United had been “too slow” to negotiate with some of his targets, using slightly more moderate and diplomatic language than Wilder and Jokanovic.

Charlie Goode signs for Sheffield United at the Randox Academy, Sheffield: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Former Blade backs Goode to shine

Goode, aged 26, has been on a similar journey of self-discovery since entering professional football following a spell in non-league. Keith Curle, the ex-United centre-half, told The Star his old club’s latest acquisition has a “wand of a right foot” after managing him at Northampton Town. But it was Goode’s transformation off the pitch, captaining them to success in the 2020 League Two play-off final, which really impressed Curle. Particularly after being warned against signing him following a difficult spell with Scunthorpe.

“People were telling me Charlie wasn’t this and he wasn’t that,” said Curle, who later saw Goode move to west London for a fee in excess of £1m. “The big thing I kept hearing was that he wasn’t aggressive enough. Fortunately I believed the evidence of my own eyes rather than words, because none of it was true. Charlie thrives on responsibility. The trouble was, nobody was giving him it. Once we did, you saw the real ‘him’ shine through.”

Lys Mousset has joined Salernitana on loan from Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

A leader at the back

Heckingbottom views Goode, who has made six Premier League appearances for Thomas Frank’s side this term, as the solution to United’s lack of competition and cover at the back. Although striker Daniel Jebbison has been recalled from a spell on loan at Burton Albion - a decision taken after Rhian Brewster limped-out of Saturday’s win at the Weston Homes Stadium and Lys Mousset’s switch to Salernitana - Heckingbottom viewed that as the greatest threat to United’s hopes of qualifying for the play-offs and making an immediate return to the top-flight. That is underlined by the fact Adlene Guedioura’s contract was terminated by mutual consent and Luton Town and Millwall felt confident enough to both make late moves for another midfielder – Luke Freeman.

“It was great to see a follower become a leader,” Curle said, noting how Goode had represented Hadley, Hayes and Hendon before arriving at Glanford Park. “I think he tried to fit in to begin with, which everyone would do. But I remember having a chat with him, about things other than sport, to find out what motivated him. I remember telling Charlie ‘You’re a great human being but when you train and cross that line, you’ve got to demand more of yourself and the people around you as well.’ That’s why we gave him the armband and he responded brilliantly.”

Goode’s key attributes

According to Curle, United haven't only required a “great character” but a hugely talented footballer too.

New Sheffield United signing Charlie Goode, on loan from Brentford, battles for possession with Emmanuel Dennis of Watford: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

“He’s a great decision maker,” Curle continued. “He knows what to do and when. He can put the ball on a sixpence with that right boot of his. But he also understands there’s times when, rather than getting caught up in all of that, you’ve just got to put your foot through it and get tough.

"Plus, he’s got a long throw that is a real weapon because it can reach every area of the pitch.”

Together with fellow new arrival Adam Davies, the goalkeeper United recruited from Stoke City after severing their ties with Robin Olsen and Michael Verrips, Goode is expected to feature in the squad which visits Birmingham City on Friday night.

“We only had Charlie for 18 months or so but he matured beyond all recognition,” Curle said. “It’s great to see someone like him do well - a player who has maximised every single opportunity they’ve been given. Who wants to drive themselves and those around them in the right direction.”

Keith Curle worked with Charlie Goode at Northampton Town: Pete Norton/Getty Images
Adam Davies signed for Sheffield United on a 6 month contract from Stoke City: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Leila Coker/PA Wire.