Sheffield United: The only winner in the battle to become The Blades' number one

There’s no doubt about it, Wes Foderingham has done well

Thursday, 27th January 2022, 5:00 pm

We shouldn’t be surprised. He spent five years keeping goal for Rangers before joining Sheffield United. Okay so 36 of his 143 games there were in Scotland’s second tier. But what folk who dismiss football north of the border tend to forget is that, no matter what division they are in, it takes a special kind of person to represent either half of the Old Firm with such distinction.

Two huge clubs, so huge they dwarf everyone in the Championship and pretty much the entire Premier League, they rarely sign duds. Or people who lack bottle. During his time at Ibrox, Foderingham took part in 10 derbies against Celtic. Those aren’t for the faint-hearted. Or, given that defeat isn’t an option for two of the most fanatical fan bases in the world, players incapable of producing moments of brilliance during 90 minutes of madness.

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When Chris Wilder decided to sign Foderingham before what proved his final season in charge, he knew what he was getting. Someone capable of stepping into the breach if the returning Aaron Ramsdale got injured. A professional, given that United had yet to surrender their top-flight status, he could rely upon. One who, as his pals in Glasgow might say, would always be ‘Ready’ if required.

Eighteen months later, with Ramsdale being sold to Arsenal and AS Roma’s Robin Olsen cutting short his loan in South Yorkshire, Foderingham is now United’s number one. Starting all of their last nine matches, and 13 in total this term, he is the first name on their team sheet. Literally and, after establishing a fine back catalogue of excellent saves, possibly in a figurative sense too. Well, until Morgan Gibbs-White returns to fitness.

But the fact Paul Heckingbottom’s predecessor recruited Foderingham in the first place serves as a reminder why United needed to draft in genuine competition for him before the transfer deadline.

Wes Foderingham has performed well for Sheffield United since arriving from Rangers: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

This is no slight on Foderingham’s character. But he needs pushing. Genuinely. Someone alongside him he knows, with all due respect to Jake Eastwood, Heckingbottom wouldn’t think twice about picking him at Peterborough this weekend. Eastwood, despite being a talented performer in his own right, simply doesn’t possess the CV yet that makes him a real threat to Foderingham’s place in the side. He knows it and so does Foderingham too. Unlike new arrival Adam Davies, previously of Stoke City.

Maybe that’s why Olsen didn’t show how good he is during five months at Bramall Lane? Capped 54 times by his country, the Swede has appeared in both the European Championship finals and also World Cup proper. But he struggled at United. Deep down, perhaps he knew because United were subsidising his wages to such an extent, injury and illness were his biggest selection threats.

Although they’d never admit it publicly, the selections coaches make will often be influenced by salaries. If you’re paying someone a small fortune every week, if you’ve persuaded a board to push the boat out financially, it’s only natural you’ll persevere a little longer with a player taking - say - £40,000 a week out of the coffers than £15,000.

Adam Davies has signed a six month contract with Sheffield United after leaving Stoke City: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Foderingham is United’s first choice on merit. Capturing Davies will enhance his chances of remaining so and their prospects of success.