SHEFFIELD UNITED: How a summer of pain could reap rich rewards

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TWENTY days on and Danny Wilson probably still feels as if he’s been kicked in the whatsits.

But football folk are, by their very nature, tough as old boots.

And when the Sheffield United manager begins plotting his response to last month’s heartbreaking play-off final defeat in earnest, he will do so with the same determination which once seemed destined to bring Championship action back to Bramall Lane at the first attempt.

There can be no room for self-pity or recrimination.

Wilson and what remains of the squad beaten on penalties by Huddersfield Town must pick themselves up, dust themselves down and focus on making it second time lucky.

Luck was a commodity in short supply during the closing stages of an arduous and ultimately brutal campaign.

Attempting to unearth ‘positives’ in a sea of misery is, as Wilson admitted after that fateful afternoon at Wembley, a futile exercise.

Nevertheless, there are some to be found.

Yes, failing to achieve promotion was a huge blow. In financial, sporting and egotistical terms.

Some recognisable names have already left through the exit door.

Others will follow - either of their own volition or with a gentle push - as United count the cost of another season in the third tier.

But this process does grant Wilson and his staff an opportunity to stamp their own mark on United’s team.

To fashion a group possessing the qualities required to implement their ideals rather than try to fit round pegs in square holes.

That is something that was prevented from taking place by United’s skewed budget during Wilson’s first 12 months at the helm.

And which forced the dramatic shift in approach en route to last month’s showpiece with Simon Grayson’s side.

There is no point in dodging the issue.

When prolific striker Ched Evans was jailed for rape in April - a conviction he is now seeking to appeal - United’s prospects of a top two finish were irrevocably damaged.

Kevin McDonald’s fragile hamstring exacerbated the problem.

But the Scot’s presence, together with compatriot Ryan Flynn, proves there are bargains to be had in the transfer market; that contacts and imagination can be every bit as effective as a bumper cheque book.

Teams who win promotion must show graft as well as guile.

But they are not forced to tear up the tactics book at the business end of a campaign.

United have a window of opportunity, to clear out dead wood and ensure the options at Wilson’s disposal are much better balanced.

While, of course, driving down costs.

A difficult but not impossible task.

And one which, providing the current regime remains in post for some time, should reap rich rewards.