Sheffield United: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will back Slavisa Jokanovic's support for Rhian Brewster
Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic only needs to read what Jurgen Klopp, his counterpart at Liverpool, said about Rhian Brewster following the striker’s departure from Anfield to convince him it is worth persevering with the mis-firing youngster.
Although preparing United for this weekend’s game against Blackpool is Jokanovic’s immediate priority, particularly with his squad 14th in the Championship table, the Serb has also accepted the challenge of trying to resurrect Brewster’s career following a difficult 12 months at Bramall Lane.
After scoring just once in 38 appearances since becoming United’s record transfer signing, the wisdom of the decision to spend £23.5m on a player with little first team experience has been questioned in some quarters. Indeed, Brewster even became a pawn in the battle for hearts and minds following the exit of Chris Wilder towards the end of last season, with some members of United’s hierarchy shoehorning his name - and the return they have so far received on that investment - into the briefings they held with journalists and various fan sites after the 53-year-old had left.
Appointed in May, Jokanovic inherited the problem of how to get Brewster firing when he officially started work nearly eight weeks later - three months after United’s relegation from the Premier League.
Rather than simply washing his hands of the England under-21 international, Jokanovic has elected to devote time and energy trying to rebuild his confidence instead. Klopp’s comments, after admitting he had reluctantly sanctioned Brewster’s switch to South Yorkshire, reveal why.
“It would not be possible for me to overstate my love, respect and admiration for Rhi,” the German told Liverpool’s in-house media channel before United’s visit to Merseyside soon after Brewster’s move. “(He is) such a special guy on and off the pitch. I’m not going to lie, agreeing to that transfer was really hard.”
Klopp, whose sporting director Michael Edwards insisted upon inserting a buy-back clause into the deal which took Brewster to United, continued: “He is a natural born goalscorer. It’s in his DNA.
“He is a coach’s dream as he is so eager to learn but also a beacon of positive energy. He had some really hard moments with us. But throughout he never once lost belief and was always someone who would light up a room, even when he experienced really tough times.”
Klopp was referring to the injury which forced Brewster to miss a season’s worth of football towards the end of his stay on Merseyside. Neil Critchley, now in charge of this weekend’s opponents, was responsible for overseeing Brewster’s progression through Liverpool’s academy and helped arrange his loan to Swansea City - where he scored 11 times in only 21 starts before being purchased by United.
City and Nottingham Forest, where their former manager Steve Cooper is now at the helm, have both been mentioned as potential destinations should United decide to place Brewster with an EFL rival during the January window. But Jokanovic has ruled-out allowing him to depart on a temporary basis, preferring to work on repairing his self-belief during training instead.