Praise for a Sheffield United player we've maybe taken for granted

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, maybe familiarity really does breed contempt?

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 11:46 am

Wrong word in the case of the ever durable John Egan but it’s probably fair to say Sheffield United’s defensive kingpin is taken for granted at times.

Hands up from here on that. A recent column paying tribute to Chris Basham - and another whose absence “makes the heart grow fonder” in Jack O’Connell - drew one sharp retort on my Twitter account.

“Why do you never praise John Egan like that?” was the substance of it. And after reflection, I replied: “A fair point.”

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Sheffield United's Billy Sharp hands over the captain's armband to John Egan. Simon Bellis / Sportimage

The international break, with none more deserving of a breather than the Irishman, is the perfect time to redress it.

Not that Egan hasn’t been extolled, here and elsewhere, but there’s never been much fuss about it. And maybe that’s about right for a no-fuss centre back.

But it’s time that changed because this guy was a man mountain in the Blades climb to to the Premier League, stood his ground when they got there and you’d have to back him to keep underpinning another ascent.

The 29-year-old wasn’t part of all that “overlapping centre back” razzmatazz because he was the one of the three who stayed at home.

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp hands over the captain's armband to John Egan. Simon Bellis / Sportimage

All the more reason why he’s deserved credit for so reliably holding the fort. We are nearly four years on from Egan joining United from Brentford for a then club record £4m. What an absolute bargain.

In that time, he has made 155 appearances. This season he is ever-present across 38 Championship games.

Ok, it’s a more conventional back three these days with O’Connell a long-term absentees and Basham also out, massively changing the dynamic, but Egan is a constant and a model of consistency.

You can’t possibly doubt that talk of Premier League clubs wanting him - especially if United fail to go up - is well founded. The fee needs to be steep in that event with Egan still on contract for another two years.

As flagged up here previously, it’s certain to be a summer of great change either way. For now, it’s a last hurrah from the current squad as it stands.

Several will be determined to be top flight players again and, whatever happens, Egan looks certain to be in that category.

And let’s hope it’s with the Blades.