Alan Biggs' Sheffield United column: Don't rule out Blades' fringe men just yet

Forget it and move on?

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 09:00 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 09:00 am
Chris Wilder manager of Sheffield Utd during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture date: 28th September 2019. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis/Sportimage.

Sheffield United had to do just that after they slunk through the back door of the Carabao Cup against Sunderland.

There’s been a huge, largely restorative, game with Liverpool in between.

But there are good reasons still to reflect on a forgettable night, not least to move forward. And mostly to debunk the theory that the Blades have a first team and nothing else.

Also in fairness to the team and players who failed miserably - nothing short - against a League One outfit showing, let’s not forget, eight alterations of their own.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

United, with ten changes, ought still have been more than good enough.

But let’s consider which of that starting eleven ISN’T a genuine or rightful challenger to a place in the 18 for the Premier League?

Arguably only Kean Bryan by dint of lack of experience and failing to take his limited chances to impress, albeit clearly a talented young player as his Manchester City and England representative background suggests.

Bryan is at the heart of it, too, when it comes to the one dynamic Chris Wilder can’t replicate when he puts out what looks, on paper, to be a strong second string.

Simply, overlapping centre-backs. It highlights the importance of Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell. No-one is capable of doing their jobs as effectively.

This column pinpointed the same after United were bundled out of last season’s FA Cup in similar circumstances by Barnet in January.

You can replicate John Egan’s kingpin role - as Richard Stearman did against both Barnet and Sunderland. But not reproduce the same chemistry with, as per last week, Bryan and Phil Jagielka alongside.

Worth looking back on the line-up for Barnet. Wilder’s public blasting of it was not repeated this time, maybe for good reason.

Within that side, Martin Cranie, Kieran Dowell and Stearman were among those who went on to make particularly significant contributions to a promoted team. And who else was in it? Ah, a certain John Lundstram.

So you write off last week’s flops at your peril. And it’s hugely important to United’s wellbeing in the Premier League to have confidence in them.

United have lost narrowly in three of four home games despite playing well for large parts of each. It is a concern but a greater one would be if they weren’t competing.

This team has been at the races in every Premier League game so far and that augurs well ahead of Saturday’s visit to Watford.