Sheffield United: Why persuading Brentford to sell Jack O’Connell for an initial £250,000 proves Chris Wilder can be trusted with money

Chris Wilder has unearthed a series of gems in the transfer market: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Chris Wilder has unearthed a series of gems in the transfer market: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

If it wasn't so painful, Brentford and their manager Thomas Frank would probably feel like applauding.

But rather than receiving plaudits for convincing the Londoners to sell Jack O'Connell for a measly £250,000, Chris Wilder hopes to be rewarded with a competitive recruitment budget ahead of the January transfer window.

Jack O'Connell's has proved to be a bargain: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Jack O'Connell's has proved to be a bargain: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's match at Griffin Park, where his side could move to within two points of leaders Norwich City, the Sheffield United manager suggested only by acquiring proven Championship talent or top-flight loanees can the visitors give themselves the best possible chance of reaching the Premier League next term.

But when he makes representations to Bramall Lane's board, Wilder should use the returns United have enjoyed on their investment in O'Connell as evidence his nous, combined with serious financial backing, could prove an irresistible combination.  

"I think, when you combine the two, it can be powerful," he said. "I've always maintained we want to get value for money. I definitely think we have with Jack. 

"It's not always the bright lights and the stars you chase. I do think it's a combination. 

Chris Wilder with coach Matt Prestridge and assistant manager Alan Knill: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Wilder with coach Matt Prestridge and assistant manager Alan Knill: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"To make us better, I do feel we have to do more of that now. But in that initial period, it was unearthing people like Jack, Mark Duffy and the John Fleck. What was it we paid for him (O'Connell)? It was£250,000 I think."

With the centre-half's valuation now around 40 times that amount according to some analysts, the figure should make persuasive reading for United directors as they calculate how much money to place at Wilder's disposal early next year. But in the capital, where Frank and his paymasters employ a data-led approach, watching O'Connell blossom into one of the division's most respected defenders must be a source of great regret. Even though, after inserting a promotion-clause into his deal, they are thought to have banked a further £250,000 when Wilder’s squad lifted the League One title 10 months after O’Connell’s arrival.

With John Egan also moving to United from Brentford earlier this year, for a club record £4m, Wilder was today asked if it was a coincidence he has arguably done more business with the Londoners than any other club.

"It's not no," he admitted. "I think they're good footballers and if you ask people of John and Jack compete then the answer is 'yes, they do.'  

"Jack was probably from a different pot. But it speaks volumes for Jack's character, after his first three games for us when we were still in League One, what he's become. We want him to stay here with us and build around him."