Sheffield United: Boss reveals why he reluctantly allowed Tyler Smith to join Hull City ahead of Saturday's Yorkshire derby
Slavisa Jokanovic has admitted he sanctioned Tyler Smith’s move to Hull City earlier this season after deciding it would be unfair to demand he remained at Sheffield United without the prospect of regular first team football.
Smith could face his former club during Saturday’s Championship fixture in East Yorkshire, having joined Grant McCann’s side for an undisclosed sum before last month’s transfer deadline.
Jokanovic, who officially took charge of United in July, told The Star he was impressed by Smith’s professionalism during the brief time they worked together - awarding the 22-year-old his United debut during the Carabao Cup victory over Carlisle five weeks ago.
But a review of the attacking options at his disposal, coupled with Smith’s desire to operate as a centre-forward, persuaded the Serb to reluctantly accept the proposal McCann’s employers made to Bramall Lane’s board of directors towards the end of the summer window.
“Tyler was a good man and a good worker,” Jokanovic explained. “Tyler also prefers to play in the position of striker. To be honest, I saw him in just one game and that was playing just behind the strikers because that’s where we needed him.
“He can be a really good football player and he is a really good professional. But when we considered the situation, we decided this was probably best.”
Having graduated from the Steelphalt Academy youth programme, Smith often appeared to be on the cusp of a first team call-up under Jokanovic’s predecessor Chris Wilder. But with United challenging for promotion to the Premier League - something they achieved in 2019 before being relegated last term - circumstances conspired to ensure the call never materialised as Wilder put his faith in experience instead.
Smith scored 10 times in 23 league appearances during a spell with Barrow at the beginning of his career and also represented Doncaster Rovers, Bristol Rovers, Rochdale and Swindon Town on loan before leaving South Yorkshire.
Indicating that, in an ideal world, he would rather have seen Smith depart on a temporary basis again before reviewing his situation in January, Jokanovic continued: “I didn’t have enough space for him in the team and so we considered it was better for him to look to see if he could do something similar to Daniel Jebbison (now on loan at Burton Albion). But I like him and I think he can do well. I just don’t think it would have been right for him, given what we have here, to ask him to remain without being able to offer him something more.”
With United finally rediscovering their touch in front of goal following an arid start to the campaign, McCann could turn to Smith ahead of the lunchtime fixture as he looks to solve City’s problems in the final third. They have netted four times in the Championship so far this term, with all of those coming during a win at Preston North End on the opening weekend of the season. After finding the back of the net only once in their first five league outings under Jokanovic, United have hit the target on eight occasions following the international break. Having beaten Peterborough 6-2 last weekend, they drew 2-2 with North End on Tuesday night.