James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Legacy must be respected at Bramall Lane

Kevin McCabe & HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud © BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHYKevin McCabe & HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud © BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Kevin McCabe & HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud © BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
At times like this, whenever there is a changing of the guard at a football club, I'm always reminded of something a former player once said to me within days of leaving Sheffield United.

"Do you know what," he admitted, when we met for a coffee to discuss his departure and catch-up with everything that had gone on. "I never realised how good I was. I didn't get too much praise when I was there but now I've left, everyone is telling me I was brilliant."

Although our get-together was off-the-record - more of a chat between two people who got along rather than an in-depth interview - I'm sure he won't mind me mentioning it now. Because one suspects, following Monday's announcement at the High Court, that Kevin McCabe and his family will experience something similiar now their dynasty in the boardroom, barring a remarkable legal turnaround, appears to be at an end.

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Earlier this week, when Mr Justice Fancourt published his ruling on United's ownership dispute, HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud swept into power. The Saudi Arabian and McCabe, who handed his former business partner a 50 per cent stake after receiving certain guarantees six years ago, have been embroiled in a very public spat for the past 18 months having both launched rival takeover bids.

Inevitably, given the stakes and the investment - both financial and emotional - the two have made in United, their fall-out became increasing abrasive as it went along. Things became personal. Understandably so. Because that, as particularly McCabe will remind you after spending over two decades in the boardroom of the team he supports, that is precisely what it was.

Although those around him and Prince Abdullah are duty bound to take sides, those of us watching the drama unfold from a safe distance are not compelled to do the same. Yes, we will all have our own thoughts on the outcome. But what I mean is, if you were in one camp or the other and not even slightly impartial, supporting one does not mean we have to trash talk the other. Especially when the two men at the centre of the dispute met, in a Paris hotel less than a fortnight ago, to try and thrash out a last minute compromise. That was a touch of class, for which both should be applauded, when you consider they had probably already been advised of what would be contained in the Fancourt report.

When Prince Abdullah began outlining his plans for the future, he made a very perceptive comment: "There is no owner, coach or player above the club." That is true.

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But welcoming him, in his new capacity at least, to Bramall Lane does not mean McCabe's legacy should be ignored, dismissed or disregarded by others. Yes, he has made mistakes and often picked up the tab for them. Back of a fag packet calculations reveal he has pumped over £100m in to the club.But when the time comes to properly detail his tenure, it will contain numerous achievements. They include the transformation of the stadium into the region's finest arena, two promotions to the Premier League and, perhaps most insightfully, orchestrating the campaign for justice following the Carlos Tevez Affair. That, as those around him at the time can testify, took its toll.

United are a very different outfit - a much more professional institution - than when he first took charge. And that, no matter what your stand point on the battle for control of Bramall Lane is, warrants respect. Many of those around Prince Abdullah, to their credit, recognise that.