James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: 'There is no sadder sight in football than seeing great sporting institutions fluttering their eyelashes at every passing billionaire.'

Sheffield United have discovered prudence brings some benefits
Sheffield United have discovered prudence brings some benefits

It has gone largely unnoticed thanks to football's lamentable deference to money. Been ignored by large sections of the media who, as the public loudly demands substance but privately helps its moguls push their clickbait agenda, are becoming increasingly obsessed with celebrity names.

But the Championship's greatest untold stories - Sheffield United's climb to the top of its rankings - is also one of the most heartwarming in the game.

Chris Wilder takes his team to Nottingham Forest this weekend: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Wilder takes his team to Nottingham Forest this weekend: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Why? Because Chris Wilder's squad owe their position to good play, good attitudes, good scouting and coaching. Not the size of their owners' cheque books. Okay, as the January transfer window fast approaches, when many of his team's nearest rivals are expected to spend big, United's manager probably quite fancies upsetting those hopeless romantics who remember the days when folk applauded skill and bravery rather than an ability to splash the cash.

But a number of factors, including the battle for power between HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kevin McCabe, is likely to ensure the strings around Wilder's transfer purse remain tight. They might, given the two can not agree on how to match-fund fund one another, become even more constricted if his share of the £11.5m AFC Bournemouth paid to sign David Brooks represents the entirety of United's latest recruitment pot.

Still, as events at Nottingham Forest last weekend proved, enforced prudence brings some benefits. It was there, after a 1-1 draw with Leeds, that the league leaders' latest opponents discovered heavy investment comes at a price.

"He's put a lot of money into it," Forest defender Jack Robinson said, describing the moment Evangelos Marinakis told Aitor Karanka's team it was promotion or the chop. "So there's a lot of ambition coming from him, and with the results we've been getting, he's not happy. We've got to improve quickly."

Football is becoming increasingly obsessed with money

Football is becoming increasingly obsessed with money

Although Karanka was delighted when Marinakis sanctioned several expensive arrivals during the close season, he is unlikely to have appreciated the Greek shipping magnate's interference in dressing room affairs. Indeed with Forest seventh in the table, only six points behind United, Karanka could be forgiven for feeling it was uneccessary and premature.

But if a club's entire modus operandi is dependent upon one man's bank balance, or worse still a consortium's, episodes like Marinakis' outburst are inevitable. The whole shebang is being funded by him so it seems pretty fanciful, not to mention ungrateful, to take his money and then expect him to butt out. Life, let alone football, does not work like that.

United's boardroom issues need resolving. Otherwise even Wilder and his staff will find it difficult to deliver continued success. But the club as a whole deserves better than to become some rich man’s plaything. If things get resolved and they fall lucky, great.There is nothing sadder, however, than seeing great community and sporting institutions reduced to fluttering their eyelashes hoping to attract some passing billionaire.

 Because that is not sustainable either. A mix of sensible investment, intelligence and youth development is. Even though they are pretty unsexy things.

Sheffield United do not have as much as many of the Championship's other leading teams

Sheffield United do not have as much as many of the Championship's other leading teams