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James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Cash, not crowds, is the new king but The Blades can still plot a course out of the Championship

Sheffield United can still compete despite their lack of cash
Sheffield United can still compete despite their lack of cash
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In an ideal world, or Chris Wilder's version at least, teams would be comprised of eleven players born and bred a short pass away from their respective clubs who are prepared to spill blood for the shirt and have no desire to leave.

Unfortunately, as David Brooks' recent move to AFC Bournemouth demonstrates, football isn't perfect. Sometimes, no matter how much managers want them to stay and supporters do too, professionals decide their careers are best served by going elsewhere.

At least United got some enjoyment from Brooks before he was lured to the top-flight. Unlike Ipswich Town who saw Ben Knight join Manchester City only months after leaving Portman Road's youth system. Or, without wishing to be inflammiatory, Sheffield Wednesday following George Hirst's move to Belgium. (I suspect we will see him back in England soon).
Size, stature and history are now of diminishing importance. Access to money, or Premier League money to be specific, is now football's most valuable currency. Why else would Celtic, who produced the Lisbon Lions and attract near 60,000 crowds, lose players to the likes of Southampton? Because, whereas Mark Hughes' side received £107m in solidarity payments and such like last term, the Glaswegian giants pocketed 36 times less. Despite winning Scottish Premier League title, FA and League cups.
Of course, United do the same to others as Bournemouth have just done to them. That's how they secured John Fleck, George Baldock and Ryan Leonard. The former Southend midfielder's case is particularly pertinent as United face accusations that, unlike Southend, they meekly surrendered and allowed Brooks to depart the moment Eddie Howe registered his interest. In fact, the two cases are similar, not different. Bramall Lane, like Roots Hall, rejected a bid in a previous transfer window before eventually doing business. And, it must be remembered, Brooks' value rose whereas Leonard eventually moved for the same amount. The end result was the same; even though the difference in financial power between Championship and League One clubs is nowhere near as large as the gulf between the second tier and top flight. The only real alternative Southend and, in Brooks' case, United had was to try and get the best out of a player who wanted to go. Which can cause all sorts of complications. The trouble is, clubs have been so keen to protect the reputation of people who wanted out in the past, (bizarrely at the expense of their own), that when they tell the truth now, folk find it difficult to believe them. Honesty really is the best policy.
It's a difficult balancing act. An unpalatable situation. But now teams in the Championship without the benefit of a parachute payment must accept their leading names are vulnerable to hostile bids while reinvesting enough to try and secure promotion themselves. Or encourage a radical rethink of how our game is governed and accept, if they do reach the elite level, going up will be worth significantly less.