Sheffield United: Time to step back and maybe calm down just a little bit

Is this the start to the season we were expecting by the first international break? Should Sheffield United’s players be performing better than they are? Have mistakes been made in preparing for this campaign?

Monday, 6th September 2021, 5:08 pm

No, yes and probably are your answers there.

United went into this campaign as one of the favourites to go straight back up into the Premier League even after their shocker of a season last time out but the squad was, or at least appeared to be, superbly equipped for the Championship given the experience within it. It just needed tweaking ahead of a probable overhaul a little further down the line.

The second answer again links back to that – these are players who for the most part know the division well and a large number of them know how to get out of it, too. A collection of very good footballers, currently performing nowhere near their abilities. Again, fresh blood in pre-season most likely would have injected a renewed vigour to a team

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Dejected Oliver Norwood of Sheffield Utd and John Egan of Sheffield Utd after the defeat to Huddersfield Town. Simon Bellis / Sportimage

And finally, the mistakes. Well, the mistakes or rather the major one, is at the tail end of each of the previous two paragraphs – the failure to recruit early enough.

However, it’s easy to say that in hindsight, for I will admit to thinking when the curtain came down on United’s stay in the top flight that the Blades had enough there already, also taking into consideration a few bright young players on the fringes, to mount a serious promotion challenge.

What I was guilty of there was naivety - manager Slavisa Jokanovic and perhaps those in charge of recruitment have perhaps done the same thing. Putting ultimate faith in a squad that on paper should be right at the top of the Championship already yet not taking into account the mental anguish that last season gave those players.

But does this poor start warrant the kind of reaction that we’ve seen? I’ve read fans fearing a double-relegation, I’ve listened to pundits say they’re ‘worried for Sheffield United’. I’ve even heared people on phone-ins describing them as ‘the worst I’ve ever seen’. In relative terms I haven’t been here that long and even I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse!

Slavisa Jokanovic manager of Sheffield United. Simon Bellis / Sportimage

For all the ability of the squad, it’s one that last season lost a popular manager on the way to a terrible season, played out in front of soulless stadiums. They had a new man come in who is still working his way through a team he inherited, doing so having had his pre-season schedule cut short by Covid and plans for new players arguably hampered by further naivety in a difficult transfer market.

New signings are now in place – and they are positive additions, too – and if everyone takes a step back they’ll realise that a slow start in the madness that is the Championship doesn’t necessarily equate to a disaster.

There have been just FIVE league games. Maybe just calm down a little bit and see where things are in a couple of months. I’m pretty confident things will have changed for the better by then. Regardless of what some think, they DO have the players to get to the top again.