James Shield: Sheffield United's 'forgotten' and troubled player can be secret Premier League weapon
Rather than scoring goals and terrorising defenders on a regular basis, Rhian Brewster has spent most of his career with Sheffield United so far sidelined with hamstring injuries and sitting on the treatment table.
But, judging by the material being posted on the club’s social media channels, that could be about to change. Brewster, United’s record transfer signing, has featured more among the recent output than probably any other player. Okay, so we’re not quite talking dominance of Jermaine Jenas standards. (It can't be long before someone at the Beeb asks him to present the 10 o’clock news). But neither is it a stretch to describe the lad as United’s pre-season poster boy. Which, for reasons I’ll outline later, is pretty telling.
MORE: Pledge made to striker
Make no mistake, with only £20m being placed at his disposal for recruitment despite leading his employers back into the Premier League, Heckingbottom knows Brewster could be indispensable next season as he attempts to establish them at the highest level. The lad’s got pace, which hopefully hasn’t been curtailed too much by his spate of fitness issues. And, when provided with the right services, he’s a clinical finisher too. None of which, if they’re looking to do business with another top-flight outfit, United can afford to purchase in the transfer market right now.
On reflection, when he first arrived at Bramall Lane three seasons ago, the odds were stacked against Brewster being an instant success. United were already struggling, and would later be relegated back to the Championship. Confidence was low and, with Jack O’Connell sidelined with a debilitating knee complaint, they were playing in a manner which meant chances were at a premium.
One of the few issues things I disagreed on with Heckingbottom’s predecessor Chris Wilder was how he handled Brewster at the time. The lad was in and out of the side, as United searched for a winning formula. I understand why they did it. How they got sucked into the situation. But I thought then, as I still do now, that Brewster should have been given a prolonged run in the starting eleven to find his feet and prove his worth.
Heckingbottom, another manager United should be bloody glad of having, has handled him similarly. Admittedly for different reasons, as he looked to protect Brewster’s health. But still, there were moments before he broke down during October’s visit to West Bromwich Albion when I felt Brewster could have been let off the leash a little more.
MORE: Clues laid by United
Heckingbottom likes to study things like YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. He admitted after that match that United had correctly guessed Carlos Corberan’s tactics by studying The Baggies’ latest offerings.
So it can’t be a coincidence, given the scrutiny they’re under, that United’s own PR gurus have homed in on Brewster this week.
Hopefully he’s on his way back. And when he does return to action, or more accurately hit peak conditioning, hopefully United reward Brewster by telling him he’ll play 12 matches in a row.
His part of the bargain? Score them five goals. Because, if he can average that same return over the course of the campaign, I reckon Heckingbottom’s men will finish outside the relegation zone.