Fans were asked to piece together the perfect Sheffield United player...and this is the result

Ask a thousand of the club’s supporters to identify what makes the perfect Sheffield United player and, even though football is a game of opinions, they would find plenty of common ground.
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Talent is obviously important. In fact, it’s probably the most important quality of all. But ability on its own isn’t enough. Those who make it to the top, as Chris Wilder’s squad did last season, must also possess other qualities such as heart, stamina and desire.

Given that Wilder ‘gets’ what makes United tick better than any of his recent predecessors, The Star’s James Shield thought it might be an interesting experiment to take things one step further. So he asked fans to help him piece together ‘Bionic Blade’ by voting for the best performer in eight key categories from those currently at the manager’s disposal. These are the results.

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Left Foot - John Fleck: Yes, he’s a tough little so and so. Yes, there are times when you can tell, as a youngster growing up in Glasgow, he learnt how to look after himself. But Fleck is technically accomplished too, which makes him pretty much the complete Premier League midfield package; especially now he has added goals to his repertoire too, scoring five times in 26 outings so far this term. It seems remarkable to think that United acquired the Scot on a free transfer, when his contract with fellow League One rivals Coventry City expired in 2016, before their climb out of the third tier. Not so long ago, when he used to roll his eyes whenever journalists asked him why he didn’t score more, Fleck insisted he takes as much pleasure from creating a chance as he does scoring one. But a subtle change of position at the beginning of the campaign has reaped huge benefits, allowing Fleck to operate higher up the pitch where he can make the most of his passing and shooting ability.

Right Foot - Oliver Norwood: Like his fellow midfielder Fleck, Norwood might not be the most fearsome-looking physical specimen. Standing only 1.8m tall, the former Northern Ireland international isn’t going to strike fear into the hearts of top-flight opponents simply by simply squaring-up to them. But like Fleck, Norwood does have an edge and, as anyone who has witnessed him fly gung-ho into a tackle can testify, he doesn’t shy away from a scrap. In fact, you could easily imagine him ‘leaving one on’ the playground bully - and then giving them a cheeky wink as they lay sprawled on the tarmac - during kickabouts at school. The most powerful weapon in Norwood’s armoury, though, is his wand of a right foot. Coupled with his ability to dictate both the tempo and direction of play, he would be called ‘Il Metronomo’ or ‘El Conductor’ if English fans went in for the same catchy nicknames as their Italian and Spanish counterparts.

Pace - Lys Mousset: The Frenchman likes travelling at pace. After all, he drives a bright orange Lamborghini. And you don’t buy one of those if your idea of a good time is taking a sedate trundle, possibly breaking the 20 mph mark during a particularly mischievous moment, to the local corner shop and back. Mousset enjoys turning on the after-burners during matches too. Indeed, until Richairo Zivkovic arrived on loan during the January transfer window, he was the undisputed speed champion of Bramall Lane. Yes, he can be unpredictable at times. Yes, he still needs to work on his endurance levels and so, when the 2019/20 season is finally completed, an important pre-season awaits. But Mousset still puts the fear of God into top-flight defenders because he covers the ground so quickly. The summer signing from AFC Bournemouth also knows where the goal is too, scoring five times since arriving in South Yorkshire. Oh, and he is pretty damn strong as well.

Lungs - Chris Basham: One of the great joys of watching United in action over the past three and a quarter seasons has been witnessing Basham’s charges from the edge of his own penalty area into the opposition box. He does it over and over and over again. One of the nicest guys in football, when it comes to endurance this bloke is an absolute beast. Seriously, he must have lungs the size of a hot air balloon. ‘Bashambauer’, as he has become affectionately known since being converted into an offensively minded centre-half following Chris Wilder’s appointment, might not possess quite the same flair and poise as Der Kaiser. Nor is he likely to ever lift the World Cup as either a player or a manager. But the former Blackpool midfielder, one of only two names on this list not signed by Wilder, is just as integral to the way United play as Franz Beckenbauer was to the great West German sides of the Sixties and Seventies. By excelling in the Premier League, he is clearly an intelligent as well as tireless footballer too.

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Cojones - Chris Basham: John Egan would probably throw himself in front of a runaway lorry if it was hurtling towards United’s goal. Jack O’Connell, a keen ameteur boxer, happily bounces bricks off his forehead according to the United fans. So both, together with goalkeeper Dean Henderson whose self-belief knows no-bounds, will probably have a bone to pick with those who didn’t lend them their votes when this particular poll was launched. They would all have been worthy winners. Instead, Basham got the nod again; becoming the only player to feature twice in the quest to piece together ‘Bionic Blade’. That not only reveals how much the 31-year-old is appreciated by United supporters, but also how bravery can come in many different forms. Basham has faced numerous different challenges since arriving at Bramall Lane six years ago. And he has confronted them all - and overcome them all - without flinching. Which takes guts and you know what.

The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield asked fans to select which members of Chris Wilder's squad performed the best in eight different categories as he looked to piece together 'Bionic Blade': Simon Bellis/SportimageThe Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield asked fans to select which members of Chris Wilder's squad performed the best in eight different categories as he looked to piece together 'Bionic Blade': Simon Bellis/Sportimage
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield asked fans to select which members of Chris Wilder's squad performed the best in eight different categories as he looked to piece together 'Bionic Blade': Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Brain - David McGoldrick: With his gold tooth and tattoos, McGoldrick doesn’t look like your typical footballing academic. But the Republic of Ireland international understands the game - how it flows, the importance of space, positioning and strategy - better than most. Certainly better than someone who, until United offered him a route back into the game two years ago, found himself without a club after being released by Ipswich Town. You wonder what those responsible for sanctioning that decision think now as they watch him weave pretty shapes across Premier League pitches while his former club struggles to climb out of League One. Okay, McGoldrick seems to have lost his finishing boots since United’s promotion from the Championship. But he brings so much more to the table than goals. The 32-year-old presence is a constant reminder that sport is about brains as well as brawn and a pleasure for those who yearn for a return to the days when coaches used to talk about ‘players’ rather than ‘athletes.’

Eye for Goal - Billy Sharp: He wasn’t United’s leading goalscorer this season before the fixture calendar was suspended. But if you had to stake your pocket money, piggy bank or mortgage on one member of their squad converting a chance, you’d always pick Sharp. After all, no player in England’s leading four divisions has been more prolific than United’s captain since the turn of the century; a century which has seen the likes of Sergio Aguero, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane all strutting their stuff on pitches up and down the country. Sharp isn’t just about instinct and finishing, however. He clearly thinks a lot about his game. Written-off as too old and too slow at the start of last season, the striker won his second promotion with United after helping them climb out of the Championship. The same was said back in August too but, after initially finding himself on the bench, Sharp has wrestled back his place in Wilder’s starting eleven and made a series of critical adjustments to his approach.

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John Fleck's left foot was voted the best in Sheffield United's squad: Simon Bellis/SportimageJohn Fleck's left foot was voted the best in Sheffield United's squad: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
John Fleck's left foot was voted the best in Sheffield United's squad: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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