Sheffield United: Former Liverpool talent guru could help Rhian Brewster get back to his best

Sheffield United could ease Rhian Brewster back into the first team fold against a team managed by his former mentor at Liverpool.

Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 4:30 pm

Neil Critchley, whose Blackpool side visit Bramall Lane this weekend, was responsible for overseeing the youngster’s progression through the Premier League club’s academy before his move to United 12 months ago.

Despite leaving Brewster out of his squads for recent games against Stoke City and Millwall, United’s Slavisa Jokanovic remains convinced the centre-forward can rediscover the form which prompted Jurgen Klopp to label him “a natural born goalscorer” after reluctantly agreeing to sanction his £23.5m transfer last season. However a combination of factors, including United’s woeful form as they spiralled out of the top-flight, have stunted Brewster’s development. He has scored just once since becoming the most expensive player in the South Yorkshire team’s history, with that goal coming against Carlisle in the EFL Cup earlier this term.

Having seen Brewster’s confidence suffer another blow when he was controversially sent-off whilst on England under-21 duty during the international break, Jokanovic took the decision to remove him from the spotlight and work on his game behind the scenes following his return to United.

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After naming him on the bench for Sunday’s match against Barnsley, Jokanovic planned to bring on Brewster during the closing stages of the contest but was forced to abandon that idea when United threatened to surrender a three goal lead.

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Although Morgan Gibbs-White is available again following suspension, Jokanovic could again choose to include Brewster in his plans when the League One play-off final winners travel across the Pennines. Either way, Critchley’s presence raises the intriguing possibility that the Serb could ask for some pointers about how to resurrect the 21-year-old’s career during the traditional post-match drinks - a ceremony Jokanovic has embraced during his spells in charge of Watford, Fulham and now United.

Critchley, who spent nearly a decade on Merseyside before taking charge at Bloomfield Road, coaxed Brewster back to form when a debilitating injury, sustained during a reserve team fixture against Manchester City, forced him to miss a year’s worth of football. Having caught Klopp’s eye on his return to action, Brewster then netted four times in friendly competition under the German before returning to work with Critchley and subsequently joining United.

Rhian Brewster became Sheffield United's record signing when he joined from Liverpool: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“Rhian just needs a volume of football, '' Critchley said at the time, suggesting a prolonged run in the Championship is now the best antidote to Brewster’s malaise. “He just has to keep playing games. If he does that, I’m sure his fitness and general all-round game, coordination, his touch, his agility, his awareness - that will come back.”

With United struggling for consistency - they climbed to 14th in the table after triumphing 3-2 at Oakwell - Jokanovic requires Brewster to be firing on all cylinders before he can consider making him a permanent fixture in his starting eleven. Instead, as his comments following the meeting with Markus Schopp’s side suggest, he plans to rebuild Brewster’s self-belief by bringing him on in low pressure situations.

Jokanovic’s decision to switch formation, from a 3-5-2 to a 4-2-3-1, has also raised the possibility Brewster could be deployed in a wide rather than central role.

Former Liverpool talent guru Neil Critchley brings his Blackpool side to Sheffield United this weekend: Howard Roe
Rhian Brewster applauds the Sheffield United fans: Simon Bellis / Sportimage