Sheffield United and the great Rhian Brewster debate

Last weekend, when Daniel Jebbison became the youngest player in the competition’s history to score on his full Premier League debut, it was impossible not to wonder what Rhian Brewster was thinking as he watched the teenager propel Sheffield United to victory over Everton.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 4:00 pm

Signed for a club record fee of £23m, it should have been the former Liverpool centre-forward who was leading the line for the visitors during their appearance at Goodison Park. Instead, seven months, 28 outings and precisely no goals later, Brewster found himself playing second fiddle to a player who cost precisely nothing. Not to mention, having enjoyed a run-out against Crystal Palace eight days earlier, one whose previous first team experience consisted of a solitary loan appearance for non-league Chorley.

With Jebbison also starting Wednesday’s trip to Newcastle, and presumably in pole position to partner David McGoldrick again during this season’s final round of fixtures, Brewster could be forgiven for feeling a little bit jealous about his team mate’s recent success. Certainly the sight of Jebbison achieving something in 33 minutes he has failed to do in over half a year prompted questions about the wisdom of United’s decision to invest so heavily in his services.

However, speaking ahead of Sunday’s game against Burnley, Paul Heckingbottom revealed how Brewster had impressed coaching staff with his reaction to Jebbison’s selection even before the 17-year-old prodded Jack Robinson’s cross beyond Jordan Pickford. Putting his personal feelings to one side, United’s caretaker manager told The Star that Brewster’s willingness to prioritise the interests of the squad as a whole over his own suggests, when he does rediscover his touch, folk will appreciate the wisdom of the decision to bring him to Bramall Lane.

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Newcastle, England, 19th May 2021. Daniel Jebbison of Sheffield Utd in action during the Premier League match at St. James's Park, Newcastle. Picture credit should read: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“How was Rhian when that happened? He was as pleased and delighted as everyone else,” Heckingbottom said. “And that, for me, tells you a lot about what he’s like as a person.

“He was encouraging Jebbo beforehand, wishing him all the best and supporting him. He was straight off the bench when Jebbo scored and was chuffed to bits for him afterwards as well.”

With Jebbison again preferred alongside McGoldrick at St James’ Park, Brewster faces an anxious wait to discover if he will get the nod for what will be United’s last top-flight for at least a year after the relegation was mathematically confirmed last month.

The new campaign will represent an opportunity for Brewster to press the reset button, particularly as he excelled during a spell on loan in the Championship with Swansea City towards the end of his time at Anfield.

Newcastle, England, 19th May 2021. Rhian Brewster of Sheffield Utd attempts to head towards goal during the Premier League match at St. James's Park, Newcastle. Picture credit should read: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“We’ve been having lots of chats and doing lots of work with Rhian,” Heckingbottom said, echoing former manager Chris Wilder’s reminders that Brewster was always going to be a work in progress. “He’s responding to it really well. He’s a bright lad, really good around the place and when he gets one, which he will, you’ll see what it means to him and everyone else here as well, because he’s that type of lad.”