Revealed: The steps Slavisa Jokanovic is taking to rebuild Rhian Brewster's confidence and turbo-charge his Bramall Lane career
He was frank, forthright and after steering their conversation towards the latest low point in Rhian Brewster’s annus horribilis, prepared to deliver the unvarnished truth.
But manager Slavisa Jokanovic remains convinced that the 21-year-old centre-forward, who is still yet to score a league goal since last year’s record-breaking move from Liverpool, will eventually prove why Sheffield United invested so heavily in his services.
“Rhian, unfortunately things like this can sometimes happen,” admitted Jokanovic, referring to the red card Brewster received whilst on England under-21 duty during the international break. “He needs to be more focused and concentrated in this kind of situation. But on another side, it wasn’t a complicated challenge and the referee took a view that I didn’t - and I don’t think many other people did either - particularly agree with.
“I trust in him. The same as I trust in all the players. Rhian, after all, he is one of the most talented up and coming players in England.”
When Jokanovic summoned Brewster to a meeting yesterday, it marked the first stage of a plan to rebuild the youngster’s confidence. Both the location and the tone were carefully chosen. The same goes, as Brewster sat down with the Serb in the canteen at United’s training complex, for the content.
Inevitably, his sending-off against Andorra, following an innocuous challenge on the hosts’ captain Eric Vales, was among the subjects they discussed. The same goes, ahead of Saturday’s game against Stoke City, for the reasons behind Brewster’s failure to find the back of the net in 33 Premier League and Championship outings following last October’s £23.5m switch.
But Jokanovic and his assistant, former Valencia technical director Chema Sanz, weren’t really interested in trawling through the past. Instead, after reassuring Brewster they still believe in his ability, the pair made him a promise: That, providing he is prepared to continue showing “attitude” and “personality”, they can eventually unlock the potential which prompted his former employers at Anfield to insert sell-on and buy-back clauses into the deal which brought him to Bramall Lane.
Crucially, as well as attempting to change Brewster’s state of mind, Jokanovic also used their discussion to offer some technical advice too.
“He needs to open his mind, the same as everyone,” Jokanovic said. “There are many good strikers here and he is one. But because there are so many, including Billy (Sharp), Oli (McBurnie), Lys (Mousset) and (David) McGoldrick, we need to find a balance.
“He (Brewster) is one of the most talented, yes,” Jokanovic continued. “He needs to be able to adapt and be able to find different roles too. A striker, a number 10, a winger. If he can do that then we can see the kind of progress he can make.”
Having made Brewster the most expensive purchase in their history, United are financially obliged to continue persevering with a player whose only goal for them so far came during August’s Carabao Cup victory over Carlisle. His value will have decreased significantly over the past 12 months and, with Sharp, McGoldrick and Mousset all in the closing stages of their present contracts, United’s already pressured balance sheet would take a huge hit if they tried to move Brewster on.
“Rhian is a good player,” Jokanovic reminded. “A good person too.”