columnist Steven Woodgate looks at how one Championship side is reaping the rewards from the Premier League
Premiership class in the Championship may be overrated. Many
of the players that have made the transition, or ‘step down' have struggled to
keep up with the pace and tranquillity.
Whilst the massive players like James Beattie and Kevin
Phillips have certainly flourished in the league as many others end up
Andy Cole was a prime example as he announced his retirement
from Nottingham Forest. He found it difficult to adapt and Colin Calderwood
simply chose not to select him.
No club has quite recaptured the form of the players just
like Sheffield United. They have many ex-Premier League stars turning out for them
each week and they have been performing well.
So far this season The Blades have not been doing so bad;
sitting a healthy fifth position firmly in the promotion picture. Kevin
Blackwell assembled his squad with the tried and tested notion and it has pinnacle
to his success.
The relegation in 2007 hit them hard, huge controversy
surrounded the saga. Famously West Ham stayed up through a Carlos Tevez winner
at Old Trafford. Last season was a year of transition and it is encouraging to
see a good club like Sheffield United looking admirable again.
Last season they finished ninth but never looked the side
that achieved promotion with Reading and Watford in 2006.
Ex-Premier League talent came pouring in and soon it became
the norm at Bramall Lane, players with huge calibre and reaching the twilight
of their careers were putting on the red and white strips. Blackwell made a
shrewd move in bringing these players; it may be deemed that they may not be up
to the task. However so far this season they have defied that belief.
The most prodigious one must be Beattie. He has been scoring
goals for fun since his £4 million move in the summer of 2007. The expensive
price tag was justified as he supplied 22 goals last term and 7 so far this
term. He came with bags of Premier League and scoring known how. He scored
plenty of goals for Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, and Everton before deciding
to take a step down to rediscover his touch.
Sun Jihai was a regular right back at Manchester City before
joining the Blades, bar his straight red card against Coventry City he has been
Gary Naysmith joined from Everton and is still good enough
to be playing in a Premier League club. His £1 million pound transfer has been
worthwhile has he has really tightened up the left side of defence.
Gary Speed has performed superbly at every club he has
represented and it is no surprise that he has been doing the same. He currently
holds the esteemed honour of racking up more Premiership appearances than any
other player. After joining in January 2008, Speed has been vital in United's
Keith Gillespie was another Premier League starlet who was
touted for bug things; unfortunately he never really reached those
expectations. Neil Warnock signed him in 2005 to add experience and flair to
his midfield, but times have been difficult and he often is found fighting for
a spot on the bench.
Ugo Ehiogu is another experience Premier League campaigner;
he joined from Rangers also in January 2008. He certainly adds experience and
much steel to the defence. Once costing £8 million, he has been the lynchpin at
the back and has formed a good partnership with Chris Morgan.
These players have dropped down to the league and have done
a good job, Blackwell must have been trying to preserve these players and
prolong their careers. So far, he has been able to do that. Well maybe leave
out Lee Hendrie, who is on loan to Blackpool.
With more foreign influences invading the Premier League,
the Championship may even be the next call of protocol for the next breed of