Sheffield United: Leadership, attitude and why Blackburn Rovers lost out on Anel Ahmedhodzic

As well as making a big impression on the pitch, Sheffield United’s John Egan last night described how Anel Ahmedhodzic has quickly become an influential figure inside the dressing room too.
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Less than two months after completing a £3m move from Malmo, which saw him become the only player to arrive at Bramall Lane this summer for a transfer fee, the Bosnia and Herzegovina international’s name is already one of the first manager Paul Heckingbottom writes on his team sheet.

Having accumulated Champions League experience with the Swedes before featuring in Ligue 1 during a spell on loan with Bordeaux earlier this year, Ahmedhodzic’s calibre was never in doubt.

John Egan, Anel Ahmedhodzic and Rhys Norrington Davies in action for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / SportimageJohn Egan, Anel Ahmedhodzic and Rhys Norrington Davies in action for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
John Egan, Anel Ahmedhodzic and Rhys Norrington Davies in action for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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But Egan admitted his fellow defender’s character has impressed as well, saying: “Being a centre-half, he’s vocal and he’s a leader. If something has to be said, then he’ll say it. If there’s an issue that needs to be talked about, then he’ll talk.

“We all know he’s a good player but that’s another good attribute he’s got.”

Jon Dahl Tomasson, manager of United’s latest opponents Blackburn Rovers, wanted to take Ahmedhodzic to Ewood Park after being appointed as Tony Mowbray’s successor in June. The former Feyenoord, Newcastle and Milan striker coached Ahmedhodzic at the Eleda Stadion. But after first making contact with the 23-year-old’s representatives during the January transfer window, United were able to fend-off Tomasson’s interest and complete a deal which already appears excellent value for money.

Blackburn Rovers' Jon Dahl Tomasson: AP Photo/Anton UzunovBlackburn Rovers' Jon Dahl Tomasson: AP Photo/Anton Uzunov
Blackburn Rovers' Jon Dahl Tomasson: AP Photo/Anton Uzunov

“He’d worked with Anel before,” Paul Heckingbottom, the United manager, said. “And he’ll want good players. We were lucky that we’d already built a relationship with Anel, which put us in a stronger position than Blackburn. That served us well, started the process and Anel knew of the interest.”

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“There were a lot of clubs other than Blackburn, ones with arguably an even bigger status than us, who wanted Anel as well,” added Heckingbottom, whose side has won two and drawn one of its opening four games this term. “So we did really well getting him. We were disappointed not to get Anel in January but, in a sense, the work we did then helped us further down the line.”

Reda Khadra, the former Rovers loanee, is expected to join Ahmedhodzic in the squad which faces Tomasson’s men. But Billy Sharp will miss out after a scan on the ankle injury he suffered during last weekend’s trip to Middlesbrough revealed more serious damage than first feared. Although Heckingbottom refused to put a timescale on when the striker will return, it sounds as if Sharp could be facing a lengthy spell in the treatment room.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage

Jayden Bogle, Enda Stevens, Ben Osborn, Jack Robinson and Adam Davies are also unavailable for selection as they battle back from fitness issues. But Chris Basham, whose place in the starting eleven Ahmedhodzic has taken, is now fully recovered from a hamstring complaint.

“First and foremost, Anel has got the attitude,” Egan said. “He’s got his head down and taken his chance. Chris Basham, one of the best players this club has seen, is big boots to fill. We’re all fighting for shirts.”

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“Anel is chilled, a cool guy and has a good attitude,” Egan added. “We’ve got a good squad and the other signings are all good lads. You can tell the group is close.”