I WANTED my first column of 2013 to sound a positive note, writes James Shield.
And, having returned from a New Year’s break in Budapest to find two new arrivals at beautiful downtown Bramall Lane, Sheffield United have provided the perfect excuse.
No doubt these words will prompt a flurry of Scrooge-like soundbites from those who, not always without reason, struggle to find anything good to say about the club they purport to support.
There’ll be moans and groans claiming yours truly is more interested in cosying up to the powers-that-be rather than providing critical assessment of goings-on less than a mile and a half away from Star Towers.
Confirmation that Motherwell’s Jamie Murphy will shortly be joining Danny Higginbotham, the former Stoke City and Southampton defender, on Danny Wilson’s roster means only their most one-eyed of critics would opt not to tell United’s board of directors: ‘Credit where credit is due.’ Or to use football parlance: ‘The boys have done good.’
Now it doesn’t take a lecture from Sir Mervyn King or Mark Carney to understand that United’s finances are under pressure. Not least because of the demands of Salary Cost Management Protocol or SCMP as it is better known.
Nevertheless, having performed a minor miracle to even comply with this new measure last summer, United have issued an early statement of intent by recruiting two players at opposite ends of their careers but both possessing the quality and experience to enhance rather than simply bloat Wilson’s squad.
The big-wigs, including owner Kevin McCabe, have backed their manager in the transfer market. Just as they did when five months ago when Dave Kitson put pen to paper on a contract after severing his ties with Portsmouth before Neill Collins, Michael Doyle and the prodigiously-talented Diego De Girolamo were also handed new deals. In the latter’s case, despite interest from some of the country’s major sporting superpowers.
Now, with SCMP demanding United do not spent more than 65 per cent of their turnover on players, departures between now and the end of the window are inevitable. As Wilson himself acknowledged recently, this fresh legislation means it’s no longer a case of simply having money to spend.
Even those clubs with a billionaire Sugar Daddy can not, if they are in the bottom two tiers, go out and splash cash like its going out of fashion.
United, as the presence of Murphy and Higginbotham demonstrates, are still on budget. The Football League would not have ratified these moves if they were not.
But United are now likely to have edged above the 60 per cent mark which demands they are micro-managed by the governing body. Hence, Wilson’s admission that “players on the periphery” are likely to leave to give his paymasters some wriggle room.
This is not an indication that United are pulling the rug from beneath Wilson’s feet. Because, in fairness, lately they have done the exact opposite.