Sheffield United: Former Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster is given his orders as boss looks to the future

Creating chances has never been a problem for Sheffield United. Not even earlier this season when, as they struggled to readjust to life back in the Championship, they scored only once in five outings.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 5:32 pm

But taking them, as events during last weekend’s FA Cup defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers demonstrated, is an issue. One which, as they prepare for Saturday’s visit to a resurgent Derby County, Rhian Brewster is being backed to help Paul Heckingbottom’s side solve. Even though, speaking ahead of the trip to the east Midlands, the United manager refused to confirm if the striker would start.

“Rhian knows he’s going to be pushed physically and mentally,” said Heckingbottom, who named Brewster on the bench at Molineux before selecting him for an under-23’s fixture against Barnsley in midweek. “It was great to see him score in that last one, for the development lads. I was really pleased because it was a header from a corner as well - something different to his usual type.”

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Brewster needs to succeed in South Yorkshire, to prevent his career from stagnating following a record breaking move from Liverpool. But United need him to perform too, hence the audible sighs of relief emanating from both the boot room and the boardroom when, two months ago, he netted for the second time in three outings before succumbing to injury.

Having spent £23.5m to secure his release from Anfield, ‘face; is obviously at stake for both the player and Bramall Lane’s hierarchy. But as their captain approaches his 36th birthday, United also need to reduce their reliance upon Billy Sharp who, despite spending two of the last four seasons in the Premier League, remains the most clinical finisher at the club’s disposal. As well as being a reflection of Sharp’s remarkable talents, that also represents a failure to properly exploit the financial benefits top-flight status brings – something Heckingbottom, appointed two months ago, wants to address.

“It couldn’t have come at a worse time for either Rhi, the team or us,” he said, referring to the hamstring issue Brewster suffered after scoring against Bristol City in November. “We want to be working with him and he wants to be playing. So it’s good to see him on the road back.”

Aged 21, Brewster is both the future and at Bramall Lane and, given his experience in the division following a spell on loan with Swansea City, the most obvious solution to an issue which, together with their paucity of centre-halves, appears the biggest threat to United’s hopes of winning promotion this term.

Rhian Brewster was in fine form for Sheffield United before sufferig an injury: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Ignoring the challenges presented by a fixture schedule rendered almost impossible by a series of postponements that is. With a match against Queens Park Rangers still to be sandwiched into the calendar, United must contest seven games in only 21 days next month.

“Those 60 minutes he got for the under-23’s are going to be invaluable,” Heckingbottom said. “Because we can only really be working with Rhi if he’s fit and firing on all cylinders, as he was before. But obviously he’s on the way back now.”

Rhian Brewster trains ahead of Sheffield United's trip to Derby County on Saturday: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is looking forward to working with the former Liverpool striker again: Andrew Yates / Sportimage