Sheffield United are told that Rhian Brewster is their 'perfect signing' as the former Liverpool striker prepares to make his debut against Fulham
Rhian Brewster has been described as the perfect signing for Sheffield United, with Chris Wilder revealing the centre-forward’s presence has already had a tangible effect upon his squad’s performance levels during training.
After becoming the most expensive player in United’s history following his £23.5m move from Liverpool, Brewster hopes to be thrust straight into the starting eleven when Fulham visit Bramall Lane this weekend.
Although Wilder acknowledged the price United paid to acquire the 20-year-old’s services represents a significant investment for a club embarking upon only its second season in the Premier League since 2007, he is adamant it will deliver substantial returns - in both footballing and financial terms, with the Covid-19 pandemic showing little indication of curbing inflation in the transfer market.
“I’m not looking to bring in players who make us any worse, am I,” Wilder said. “There’s times when you bring them in for competition in the group, yes, but I want to make us better and Rhian does that.
“The age is a great age and the price is a reasonable price, also the wages. It fits in with where we are.
“It’s a great Sheffield United signing from my point of view. It’s one we needed to make. He has lifted the place. He loves being a part of it. He’s integrated with the players. He’s a likeable character and he’s already been great around the place. Most of all, he’s a real talent.”
Brewster had already been identified as a person of interest by United’s scouting department long before it became apparent Wilder needed to boost the firepower at his disposal. An approach was first made during pre-season training in Scotland and although United’s hierarchy initially favoured brokering a loan agreement, a run of three straight defeats to nil helped those arguing it made more sense to recruit Brewster permanently press their case. Wilder’s men enter their meeting with Scott Parker’s side having suffered a fourth, after being edged out 2-1 by Arsenal earlier this month. David McGoldrick, who is battling to recover from an injury sustained on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, was on the scoresheet in the capital. But the sight of two clear cut chances going begging towards the end of that contest confirmed why Brewster, forced to watch the action unfold from the stands because his registration was not processed in time, had been brought in.
As well as being designed to equip United with a cutting edge, Wilder is convinced Brewster’s arrival will also lift standards throughout his team after noting how the arrival of Ethan Ampadu, Jayden Bogle, Max Lowe and Oliver Burke earlier in the window had been greeted by those already in situ.
“There’s no downside to bringing really good players in,” Wilder said, acknowledging that Burke, John Fleck and John Egan are also doubts for this weekend’s fixture. “Ethan, Jayden, Max, Burkey - they have all lifted the sessions. The standard in training is as good as it’s ever been since I’ve been here. I know people will look at the results and think how can that be but, seriously, it is.
“We could have done without the injuries. When everybody is up to speed and at it, this is as good a group as when I’ve been here.
“Rhian coming in, there’s no downside. If there’s a downside, that’s a character fault. And that’s not going to happen here.”
“There’s a stat come out about us being the fourth or fifth creators of big chances,” he added. “We’re obviously not taking them, but I’m sure we will.”
Wilder had also hoped to address an issue at the other end of the pitch - where Jack O’Connell’s absence means Jack Robinson is now the only left footed centre-half at his disposal - before last night’s deadline for transfers from English Football League clubs. However it became apparent earlier this week that neither Terence Kongolo nor Ben Davies, Wilder’s preferred candidates to fill the void created by O’Connell’s fitness issue, would be bought.
Parker has also been wrestling with defensive issues this term, but labelled comments from his director of football operations Tony Khan about the displays of his own centre-halves following a recent EFL Cup tie with Brentford as “unhelpful”. Khan’s father, Shahid, is the Fulham owner and after being asked about Parker’s response to the criticism, Wilder’s response shed light on how he believes clubs should be run in order to achieve their potential.
“Owners are custodians who look after it in their own way,” he said. “I thought Scott answered it perfectly, because it was a difficult position he was put in. I think the best and most successful clubs are the ones where the trust in terms of coaching and recruitment is put entirely in the manager.”
“Owners have the right to comment, because of the investment they put in,” Wilder continued. “But if you look at history, things work best when the manager and his coaching staff are allowed to coach and manage.”
Like United, Fulham are also searching for their first point of the campaign - meaning the outcome of tomorrow’s contest is likely to have a huge bearing on the mood behind the scenes both in South Yorkshire and west London.
Brewster, who scored 11 times in 22 appearances during a spell on loan at Swansea City last season, provides Wilder with the flexibility to change system if required, although a final decision has yet to be taken on his level of involvement.
“Rhian comes in as a nine and a ten,” Wilder said. “He’s played at Swansea down the middle on his own, but I don’t want to put too much on him because he’s a young player who we need to get up to speed. I’ve got the balls to change it around, from a system point of view. And I’ll do that again if it’s necessary.”