What Sheffield United and others in football can learn from one brilliant radio show - James Shield's Blades Column

Early on Wednesday evening, as I was driving to the gym, there was a segment on LBC radio about politicians and how some of them, including the guy who tries to pass himself off as a credible Prime Minister, have mastered the arts of obfuscation, semantics and double-speak.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 5:00 pm

I’ll give the station a namecheck because, declaring an interest as so many forgot to do in government, I’m a big fan of its shows. Particularly those presented by Maajid Nawz, Andrew Pierce and Nick Ferrari - even though the latter two, and to some extent the former, aren’t exactly on my political page. But a bit like Andrew Neil of GB News, a channel which seems to have offended thousands of people who profess to believe in free speech so long as it wouldn’t upset a dinner party of Blairites, they’re all superbly briefed and tenacious interviewers. (Again, for the sake of transparency, I’m an unashamed socialist. Which is why, unlike those who profess to be reds but don’t truly understand the concept, I voted to leave the European Union).

So what has this got to do with football? Other than the fact that Brussels and Strasbourg, a bit like the sometimes not so beautiful game, are controlled by big money and self-interest).

Well to be frank, particularly whenever we’re either in the middle of a transfer window or approaching one, quite a lot. Because as we’ve seen on countless occasions already this summer, managers, coaches, players, owners and directors all know how to blur the line between truth and fantasy. Not quite as well as Boris Johnson though, which I suspect he’ll probably take as a compliment.

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Common: JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Common: JESSICA TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images

Unless he’s totally oblivious to his club’s financial strategy ahead of the new campaign, one Championship manager was at it this week when he insisted Sheffield United would not be offered the chance to buy one of his players. “He’s not for sale,” the guy in question scoffed. Admittedly the lad he was talking about hasn’t been put on the market. So in a sense, he was right. But everyone in the business knows his employers would prefer to get rid. Not for sporting reasons. But because he earns a lot.

United’s hierarchy could also be choosing their vocabulary carefully over the coming days. They want to cut Sander Berge loose - again to cut costs and raise funds - but actually can’t say as much because they need to preserve the euphoria, the justifiable euphoria, surrounding Slavisa Jokanovic’s arrival.

With Aaron Ramsdale and George Baldock also attracting interest from the Premier League and Scottush Premiership, it would be the easiest thing in the world for someone to come out and say they won’t be sacrificed. But they won’t because we all know, if the right money comes in, they’ll be off.

That’s actually not a criticism. United need to cut their cloth accordingly after being relegated last term. Plus, even Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe have a price.

The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield

Fans aren’t daft. They know that. But supporters get upset when they know they’re being spun a line.

In football, just like politics, the fall-out when folk try and be clever with words is always more damaging than when they’re straight.

Slavisa Jokanovic has officially taken charge of Sheffield United: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images