Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United Column: Transfer window success - so far - will hopefully negate Blades’ self-destruct tendencies with Premier League promotion push still on
You can never rule anything out or in until the transfer window closes on Thursday night.
But you can guarantee Chris Wilder’s determination to leave Sheffield United in stronger shape for a much larger window of opportunity.
And the biggest factor is that, unlike a good many clubs these days, the Blades are largely manager-driven on transfers. Within a budget, of course. For all that’s wrong behind the scenes at Bramall Lane, that part is crucially right.
So, with long-term target Scott Hogan expected to be arriving on loan from Aston Villa, all three recruitment boxes are ticked. It was way back that Wilder identified the need for two different kinds of striker and an attacking midfielder.
Consider the geography of these loan initiatives. Everton and Cardiff (of the Premier League) for Kieran Dowell and Gary Madine, and Aston Villa (a big-paying giant of the Championship) for Hogan.
Wage subsidies are possible but the outlay will be substantial, to everyone’s credit including the board.
Hopefully this more than heads off the self-destruct tendency that has dogged United down the years. As it is, the club could not be more divided off the field at a time when it could not be more together on it.
The last thing it needs is another own goal just as the Premier League is in its closest proximity for 11 years.
Having kept body and soul together, Wilder has been hell bent on keeping the dream intact. As I’m sure both owners were made more than aware.
So, if an integral member of his team were to depart suddenly, you can assume it would only be on the basis of attempting to drive an upgrade for the team. Which, in the case of John Fleck, would be very hard indeed.
At the time of writing, it’s impossible to be certain which way this one will go - as is always the case when a club of higher status, offering much higher wages, pursues a player.
West Ham’s rejected bid for Fleck, reportedly £4m, looked wholly unrealistic for a midfielder at the peak age of 27 with plenty on his contract.
The possibility of a follow up and the player’s view of Premier League interest are two reasons why the matter can’t be entirely closed beyond all doubt.
Were something to happen - which seems unlikely now - there would be a third to consider.
When Lee Evans, albeit not established to anything like the degree of Fleck, was sold to Wigan last summer, Wilder seized an opportunity to sign Oliver Norwood. That was an upgrade and a half.
The Fleck scenario would be far tougher. While lacking goals from midfield and not always hitting last season’s standards, the Scot is a ball of energy, capable of grittily breaking up play and driving at opponents.
Signing ex Blade Kevin McDonald from Fulham, a quality playmaker of different style, has been floated as a suggestion. Far from a bad one. But the Blades don’t have an obvious replacement for Fleck’s attributes in the building.
In/out changes up front were more straightforward. In pursuing Hogan, United have been open to interest in Leon Clarke, who has served the club brilliantly.
And again the bottom line criteria has been leaving United stronger for a big shot at promotion.