After making a winning start to the season with a 1-0 victory over Shrewsbury Town on Saturday, Danny Wilson’s Blades travel to Coventry tonight in confident spirits. Here Sheffield United blogger Will Ollet gives his reasons to be hopeful about the new season for the Blades.
As Steve Simonsen blazed over from 12 yards out in the searing heat of Wembley a few months back, it was confirmation that a team with 90 points, and the nation’s highest goal scorers, were not being promoted.
Simonsen has since moved on, as have several other United, players, but Danny Wilson has acted quickly in the transfer market to make sure the plans were in place to start the season on the right foot.It is uncharacteristic of Sheffield United to approach any transfer window with structure. We are usually last to act out of all teams, and are usually left to sweep up what is left.
However, with Matthew Lowton moving to Villa so early in the transfer window, in what looks to be a shrewd piece of business on Paul Lamberts part, it looked to have freed up the purse strings which have been getting tighter and tighter at Bramall Lane in the past few years. Danny was entrusted to re-invest whatever money he received for Lowton back into a squad that was looking quite thin.
First came out of contract Darryl Westlake from Walsall. An ambitious young full back that will fill the space left by the departing Andy Taylor at left back. This position would usually be reserved for Lescinel Jean Francois, but it could be a few more months before he will be fully fit, still recovering from a serious injury picked up towards the end of last season. Matt Hill has also arrived at Bramall Lane after a loan spell last season, so there seems to be plenty of competition for full backs, even with the departure of Lowton.
Another clever piece of business for Wilson came in the shape of Tony McMahon, out of contract from Middlesbrough. McMahon will no doubt be in stiff competition for a starting role at centre half, after having plenty of experience above League One. He will have to impress to start ahead of the ever consistent Collins and Maguire, who had such a fantastic debut season, that the young defender was rumoured to be attracting attention from some Premier League sides. I predict McMahon will start on the bench, but there is no doubt he brings with him a bag full of experience, and again, his presence will create a competition for places within the United defence.
Maybe the most important piece of business over the summer was making sure that Kevin McDonald signed a new contract. Only on a one year deal to start with, McDonald impressed last season with his passing ability and his capability to make the team play fluid attractive football. He has now signed a new deal, giving United fans a huge sigh of relief. The same cannot be said of Lee Williamson, who, also out on contract, has decided to pack up his bags and move to troubled Portsmouth on a month long contract. Williamson will be missed in midfield for his trickery and ability to create or score a goal out of nothing, but it does now give the opportunity to Ryan Flynn to really show what he can do.
Wilson has also had to concentrate on where the goals will come from this season. There is no doubt the midfield holds enough creativity to make goals, but not enough people to score them. After the disgraced Evans was out of the picture, United looked void of a natural goal scorer towards the end of last season, and fans knew the pressure was on to find someone else who can score the goals that made defences fear us last season. Danny turned to young Shaun Miller from Crewe, and Nick Blackman from Blackburn. Both have youth on their side, and with Porter and Cresswell still present to provide the experience, these player will be expected to score the goals that will lead United, favourites for the League, to promotion.
There was one more positive bit of news that I wish to end on, and that was the news that John Pemberton will still be at Bramall Lane this season. After turning down the chance to become the next manager of Crawley town, Pemberton has committed his future to making sure United have a crop of promising youngsters that they can call upon. Pemberton and Wilson have already been making noises about some of these youngsters being ready to make the transition to the first team, with players like McFadzean, Whitehouse, Harriott, and Ironside being touted to join the seniors to inject new energy, pace, and enthusiasm, into what was an aging team last season. With this in mind, I think there is a lot to be optimistic about at Bramall Lane for the new season.
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