Sheffield United: Chris Wilder focuses on football as court hearing set to decide who owns The Blades continues

If some people still believed Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud might be able to amicably settle their differences following Sheffield United's promotion to the Premier League, those hopes were quashed after only one morning of the hearing which will ultimately decide who gains sole control of the club.

By James Shield
Tuesday, 14 May, 2019, 15:46
Sheffield United's manager Chris Wilder: Scott Merrylees

McCabe's legal representatives accused their client's business partner of failing to provide a "piffling" £500,000 to cover staff wages at Bramall Lane.

In response Prince Abdullah's lawyers described the Scarborough-based businessman of finding it "difficult to accept" criticism and of being "overbearing and aggressive" when it is levelled.

Kevin McCabe (right) and HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud © BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Expect, when the High Court judge finishes listening to the two sides outline their positions and examining witnesses, for the atmosphere to get a whole lot worse.

Meanwhile, as he watches the unedifying spectacle unfold from afar, Chris Wilder is doing his best to concentrate on footballing matters. The man responsible for restoring United's top-flight status is understandably frustrated by events inside Bramall Lane's boardroom.

But fortunately, unless Wilder's acting skills surpass his talents as a coach, the battle for power between two warring co-owners has yet to influence a recruitment drive which could decide if United are able to establish themselves at the highest level or make an immediate return to the Championship.

Towards the end of last week, within 24 hours of briefing the media about his plans for the summer, Wilder is understood to have met with chief executive Steve Bettis and Carl Shieber, United's head of football administration, to thrash out plans for the forthcoming transfer window. Paul Mitchell, the 51-year-old's close confidant and head scout, is also believed to have been present as targets and other associated matters were discussed.

Sheffield United's home stadium Bramall Lane

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Despite acknowledging that talks with some of those on his wanted list were still at the embryonic stage, Wilder did not give the impression of someone waiting for a judge to deliver their findings before entering the market.

Of course, with many of those he is chasing likely to have suitors elsewhere, the dispute between McCabe and Prince Abdullah could prompt some awkward questions from agents when negotiations reach an advanced stage. Why, they might ask, should one of their players join a team whose proprietors can agree about the need to inject £1.25m each into its coffers but not, as a preliminary hearing revealed last year, whether the money should be made available via means of a donation or a loan?

It is for precisely this reason that Wilder and Bettis sat alongside one another when they outlined United's footballing strategy to journalists six days ago. The atmosphere was informal but the seating, and the image it was designed to project, was carefully choreographed as two sought to reassure prospective new signings that it is still business as usual. On the pitch at least.

With membership of the PL estimated to be worth £170m - Huddersfield Town, who finished bottom of the division last term, received around £94m in solidarity payments, facility fees and other central handouts alone - United should be an attractive proposition for the type of player Wilder is hoping to acquire. Not least because, as they prepare to rub shoulders with the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, they can now offer not only better wages than the vast majority of sides in the second tier but a higher profile too.

HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kevin McCabe © BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Given Wilder's pledge to continue with the attacking approach which also delivered the League One title in 2017, United could emerge as one of the most desirable destinations for those ready to make the step-up.

Earlier this month, Wilder thanked McCabe and Prince Abdullah for taking steps to protect him from the worst of their dispute. The return of Bettis, following a year abroad, was undoubtedly among them.

Unfortunately, however, the focus will remain firmly on politics until the first of what is likely to be three or four new faces, arrives in the dressing room.