Kevin Gage's Sheffield United Column: Blades have become headline news with their Premier League transfer business... here's why I approve of their approach
It’s time to catch our breath, rub our eyes and make sure we’re not in the middle of a deep comfortable sleep, dreaming of Premier League millions and spending Sky’s TV money on players left right and centre!
No, we’re in the Wide Awake Club, it’s the new reality for us Blades, and to be honest, it’s gonna take some getting used to!
How times change. Not long ago, we we’re lucky to get a mention on the yellow news bar moving across the bottom of the TV screen as a fairly insignificant piece of transfer business involving Sheffield United was completed.
It got lost amongst the other League One and Two deals that constantly happen in the EFL. No more though! All of a sudden United are the day’s first piece of headline news as the Sky Sports presenter breaks it to the football-watching public that we’ve spent umpteen million pounds on another new striker!
This comes of course after we’ve already broken our transfer record three or four times this summer (to be honest, I’ve lost count!) with the signings of Luke Freeman, Lys Mousset and Callum Robinson, and at a conservative estimate of another £17m for Oli McBurnie it will take our spending this summer to approximately £43m on transfer fees alone.
That’s obviously before any ‘add-ons’ or wages are taken into account! The figures are mind-boggling, actually and may take some getting used to. But in this era of Gareth Bale’s £1m per week offer, Harry Maguire’s potential fee of £80m+ and Aston Villa’s spending so far - a whopping £125m in this transfer window alone – then our relatively modest spend doesn’t seem too excessive!
And….in my opinion, it’s EXACTLY the correct policy in order to give the club the absolute best chance of staying up in this crucial first season back in the top-flight.
Casting aside the glamour and the football reasons for wanting to stay amongst the elite clubs for as many seasons as possible, there are the obvious huge financial rewards too.
Apart from the guaranteed TV money £100m per season, plus ‘parachute’ payments of £80m-ish over the three years after relegation, there are endless commercial opportunities on a global scale too, with the reach of the Premier League into all the far-flung corners of the world.
It really is a fantastic opportunity to put Sheffield United (and Sheffield as a city to be fair) firmly back on the worldwide map. Not that we ever left of course, but you get my drift!
Along with his backroom team, and together with the policy agreed by the owners and executives, Chris Wilder and Co. have done exactly what I hoped they’d do in the summer transfer window. It would have been very tempting to do ‘a Fulham’ and completely rip apart the very fabric of the team that did so well to get them promoted.
But in my opinion, it had to be a controlled evolution as opposed to revolution. I was expecting us to spend a big wedge of money and I privately thought that a net spend of about £30m would be the eventual figure.
My reasoning was that the team was essentially solid defensively and I’d assumed that Henderson would sign again, so no permanent fee would be needed to sign another keeper. I’m happy to have assumed correctly there! I thought we’d definitely be in the market for a striker or two but I think we’ve surprised everyone with signing of three!
I also didn’t want to spend too excessively on players alone as I truly believe that the TV money can be used in hundreds of other positive ways, trickling down to all areas of the football club across all levels. The chairman has already spoken about upgrades to the training ground and our already excellent academy, as well as improvements to Bramall Lane itself.
Invested sensibly and wisely, the Premier League millions could really secure the club’s financial future for decades and generations to come - and we don’t have to look too far across our city far to realise how quickly financial problems can arise and how precarious situations can become.
Whatever the outcome of the High Court issues, I’d like to think that promotion to the Premier League will mean that the future of our beloved Blades off the pitch is now secure.
So off the pitch, we’re sorted… hopefully! On it, we look in fine shape too. In the next few weeks I’ll be appraising just where I think we stand from a football perspective, but even at this stage of pre-season we have seen good performances and new players are showing promise and gelling together well. Not long to the big kick-off now – and I for one can’t wait!
Bring it on. We’ve been waiting a long time, we’ve been on a spending spree and we’re ready… and, we’ve still got a few quid left over! UTB