Why Sheffield United won't be following the 'Leicester City' model

Five years ago, when Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions, it was said they had disproved the theory that gaining access to a billionaire’s bank account is the only way for clubs to achieve any degree of success.

By James Shield
Thursday, 11th March 2021, 12:14 pm

But, as Chris Wilder reminded ahead of Sheffield United’s visit to the KP Stadium this weekend, their march to the title was a “once in a lifetime” happening. Or in other words, as he searches for ways to break the chain between money and accomplishment, not something to base your model on.

Although results this season means ensuring his squad is fit for purpose in the Championship is the United manager’s immediate priority, Wilder believes many of the things required to make that happen will also be beneficial should they return to the top-flight. They include gaining category one status for the Steelphalt Academy, which the 53-year-old has placed at the heart of his proposed recovery programme.

“Every club has got to look at ways of maximising its income and the things it’s good at,” Wilder said. “Even the most powerful ones in the country and the world do it, because that’s what gives them the best chance of staying in that position.

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Kean Bryan, Phil Jagielka and Frankie Maguire (L) of Sheffield United during the Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

“One of the things we’ve been known for here is bringing young players through. There’s been a brilliant track record over the years, when you look at some of the names and it’s something, providing we give ourselves the best chance of maximising it, we should be looking to do again because it can be a really strong string to our bow.”

By his own admission, the flow of talent through United’s system has slowed to a trickle in recent years as other aspects of Bramall Lane’s footballing operation struggled to keep pace with the first team’s surge through the divisions. But United’s impending relegation - they have prepared for Sunday’s visit to the east Midlands 12 points adrift of safety with only 10 matches remaining - is likely to bring a recalibration.

Rhys Norrington-Davies will be granted an opportunity to stake a claim for a starting role when his loan at Stoke City expires. Frankie Maguire, Iliman Ndiaye, Kyron Gordon and Antwoine Hackford, who are vying for places on the bench against Brendan Rodgers’ side, can expect the same - albeit after possibly completing placements with other EFL clubs themselves.

“There’s obvious benefits to bringing people through, and so that’s something we need to really look at doing again,” Wilder continued, “Giving the brilliant staff we’ve got working in the academy the best chance to do that and the best tools.

Chris Wilder want to recharge Sheffield United's academy: Glyn Kirk/Pool via Getty Images

“When we first came in, we were midtable in League One and let’s be honest, although we’ll have brought in some good talents, a lot of other boys from around there will have probably thought they’d be better off going elsewhere because of the status.

“What I want us to do is dominate this area. That’s always been a big thing for me. And making sure we’re the best we can possibly be is one way of doing that. I think it will put us in a really strong position.”

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