United and the return of a League One Galactico

Red and white favourite: Bramall Lane old boy James Battie
Red and white favourite: Bramall Lane old boy James Battie
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LET’S be frank.

In normal circumstances, if Sheffield United were to sign a striker who by his own admission has yet to achieve full fitness and without a goal in 25 months, the howls of derision would echo all the way from Bramall Lane to the Bernabeu.

Those derogatory placards about Danny Wilson would be dusted down and Kevin McCabe forced to answer yet more half-baked questions about his ambition (or supposed lack if it to be precise).

But as United’s latest set of financial figures prove, coupled with the fact they now find themselves battling to climb out of League One rather than the Championship, there is nothing normal about life in S2 right now.

And James Beattie, in the red and white half of the Steel City at least, is no ordinary player.

There can be little doubt that, given his record since leaving United two years ago, much of the clamour for Beattie to be brought back has been driven by sentiment rather than statistics and science.

Chris Porter, fast replacing Steve Simonsen as the man many fans love to hate, boasts a goals every four games in his last 20 appearances.

Beattie’s is precisely zero.

But with 79 per cent of his efforts during the past four and a bit seasons being scored in United colours, it is inevitable the former England international, who yesterday penned a short-term deal, enjoys a special place in United hearts.

Folk in these parts remember his powerful displays under Bryan Robson and Kevin Blackwell. Not the fractious shifts which prevented him from making any sort of impression at either Blackpool or Glasgow Rangers.

A bizarre dressing-room re-enactment of that infamous scene from Women in Love, with Tony Pullis apparently cast as Alan Bates and Beattie playing the Oliver Reed role, effectively wrecked his hopes of staying at Stoke.

If Beattie can regain his fitness and at least some of the predatory instincts which have served him so well in the past then he should prove a potent weapon in United’s armoury.

If not, then those very same folk who have been so vocal in demanding his return will then lambast Wilson and McCabe for wasting valuable resources on a spent force rather than investing in young, fresh talent.

Of course, one thing Beattie is certain to influence in positive fashion is the terrace mood music.

Comparisons with Los Blancos are, as has been rightly pointed out before, nothing short of ridiculous.

But, just as when Florentino Perez embarked upon assembling a new generation of Galacticos after regaining Real Madrid’s presidency in 2009, United know that Beattie is regarded as ‘more than a player’ by large swathes of their support.

Sporting, commercial and egotistical concerns inter-woven.

Despite travelling to Chesterfield fifth in the table and only six points behind a side unbeaten in its previous 43 League One outings, many United fans seem strangely downbeat about the team’s efforts so far.