James Shield: Aaron Ramsdale's Sheffield United story underlines the importance of good research and patience

Suddenly, the £18.5m they spent to sign him looks like a pretty good deal after all.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 6:46 pm

Sheffield United were being ridiculed, or rather their former manager Chris Wilder was, for lavishing an eight figure sum on Aaron Ramsdale only five or so months ago.

Now a goalkeeper who was supposedly so prone to error he would struggle to catch a chill in the Arctic wearing shorts has a shout of representing England at this summer’s European Championships after being called-up by the Three Lions.

Rather than having his pants pulled down by AFC Bournemouth, perhaps Wilder knew what he was doing after all. The same goes for Darren Ward - United’s old goalkeeping coach - who also left Bramall Lane during the cull of the coaching staff which followed the 53-year-old’s departure in March.

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While others behind the scenes were attempting to distance themselves from the deal as Ramsdale’s critics circled, Ward told anyone who could be bothered to listen that he would eventually come good. And Ramsdale did, sooner rather than later as it happened.

Still, although the price tag United agreed for Ramsdale now looks like a snip - privately, officials at the club reckon his value has more than doubled following an impressive end to the season which prompted Southgate’s decision - the story of why they had to hand over anything in the first place is worth retelling. Not least because it contains an invaluable lesson for those tasked with running the club about what they should do when the inevitable happens.

The inevitable being interest from Premier League sides hoping to exploit the fact United have just surrendered their top-flight status.

Ramsdale, of course, turned professional with them after progressing through the Steelphalt Academy. But midway through the 2016/17 season, as Wilder looked to propel his squad towards the first of its two promotions and the League One title, the youngster was sacrificed to fund the deals which would help thrust United across the line. At the time, it seemed like a sensible thing to do.

Aaron Ramsdale has been in superb form since Christmas: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

After all, Ramsdale wasn’t even in the starting eleven and waving goodbye to the third tier was a must. Finances were tight and so Wilder had to wheel and deal. On reflection, however, United might have been better off trying to identify external sources of income to bolster his transfer kitty. The consensus in the boot room was that Ramsdale would only get better.

So, admittedly with the benefit of hindsight, it would have made more financial sense to decline Bournemouth’s offer and hang tight. If they went up, which they did, United should have looked to loan him out and then bring him back when the time was right. If they didn’t then fair enough, entertain the approach and cash-in - accepting the lad would probably outgrow them.

Ramsdale has made it pretty clear, albeit before being named in Southgate’s provisional squad for the tournament, that he wants to stay in South Yorkshire next term. But that won’t stop others, with deeper pockets than United, trying to tempt him away.

This time, if United are serious about returning to the Premier League and then staying there - Slavisa Jokanovic’s imminent arrival confirms they are - his services simply must be retained. After all, Ramsdale is still only 23.

The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield
Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale has been called up by England: Andrew Yates / Sportimage