As I have traditionally done at the end of the last few seasons; it is that time again when I write a review of the campaign and also compile a school report for the different sections of the club. I will look at how they have fared and what are the prospects for next season for each respective department of the club.
Some of this I wrote a few weeks ago so apologise for any omissions or developments that may have been missed in this
I will begin with the review and a breakdown of the board and manager/s.
Over the next few weeks I will add to this with breakdowns of the players/squad at the club and do the same. Will look at contract situation (may be wrong with some of these so again come in if I have got any wrong) and what might happen to each are of the team.
I have graded the board, the manager, players and the fans; in a traditional school report style of A+ to F- (every player who started at least one game- think I may have graded a few others too). Should really mark the new GCSE style numbering 1-9 but that would get really confusing! Maybe in future years I will just give a mark out of 10 for the season (an average)– might be much easier! I will also say that some grades may not be as high as people may think but we finished 11th and have to take out who over or under achieved but mark them as what I have seen against other Championship players. Some may have played as well as last season (Duffy/Fleck) but may have a slightly lower mark. Last season we finished 1st so obvious we would have a lot of high marks and I think I had quite a few A’s and B’s. this year there will be a fair few B’s but maybe not many if any A’s.
However, I have had to grade players based on the games they did play so some players who played a lot more may still get a lower grade despite disproportionate number of games in comparison.
Of course, whilst I have seen all the home games; I have seen 8 away games live and another 8-10 on a feed; so, have missed a few away games and that needs factoring into my analysis.
If I have missed anyone then please say. Feel free to weigh in with critique, opinions and even in some cases agreements!
So, after the wonderful season of 2016-17; most United fans had found their mojo again. We were finally back in the Championship and had a manager who was an inspiration to all. Many were not sure quite how we would go. We had to borrow a Wilder phrase ‘smashed’ League One. 100 points and 100 goals. It had been all too easy and now we faced big spending sides like Wolves, Villa, Fulham and gulp Wednesday. Many felt we did not need to bring in more quality and it is debatable whether that happened over the summer. We re-signed Ched Evans, brought in wing backs Enda Stevens and George Baldock and signed a young lad from Hartlepool Nathan Thomas. We also signed experienced centre back Richard Stearman. Simon Moore got injured on the eve of the season ad we brought in Chelsea keeper Jamal Blackman on loan. One of the more interesting sub plots was the decision to keep David Brooks rather than let him go to Chesterfield as originally planned. He lit up pre-season with goals against Chesterfield and also Stoke – a game United played really well in. It seemed Wilder unable to get his targets of Leonard, Holmes and Lenighan was happy to give him opportunities.
Out of the door went Matt Done, Stefan Scougall, Marc McNulty and Jay O’Shea and loanees Harry Chapman and Ethan Ebanks Landell were not re-signed. Youngsters Ben Whiteman, Louis Reed and George Long were loaned out for season long loans; two going to local sides. Chris Hussey and James Wilson also went on loan to Swindon and Walsall respectively.
It seemed that Wilder placed his trust in the spine of the side that had done so well the previous year with O’Connell, Basham, Freeman, Fleck, Duffy, Coutts, Clarke and Sharp all expected to be regulars. Moore’s injury gave a chance to Blackman but it said it all that only him, Stearman and Stevens were newcomers on opening day. John Lundstram signed on the eve of the season but began the season in the bench. Many of the predictions for how United would do ranged quite spectacularly – some had them mid table maybe even pushing higher but many had them just below mid table or even nearer the bottom. Very few thought we would go down but pointed to the lack of quality signings and the much-improved sides/talent we would face. Some were disappointed that the ownership ‘team’ had not really built on the previous season and these questions would come often throughout the season.
The opening day of the season saw the traditional red-hot sunshine and established Championship side Brentford were in town. A decent game saw United strike first through Billy Sharp in quite an even game but Brentford cut the Blades open at times and missed quite a few chances. Still the Blades had more than competed and it was a great opening day win. Manager Wilder had surprised by starting Samir Carruthers in the no 10 role behind Sharp and Clarke and he did well. After a League Cup win that saw Thomas score his first goal and Brayford start alongside youngsters Eastwood, Bennett and Brooks; United came back down to earth. A poor game up at Middlesbrough saw United concede a sloppy goal and then not really do enough against a home side that were not much better. Still a late leveller came from Jack O’Connell but a linesman’s flag, wrongly, chalked it off. A few days later United were well beaten at Neil Warnock’s Cardiff as the pace and power of the division really hit home. Back at the Lane and United were able to put in a very good performance and see of local rivals Barnsley with Sharp scoring again. Leon Clarke and McDonald of Barnsley were both sent off for a clash in the first half. United really should have won by more than the single goal as they easily beat the Reds. Mark Duffy was back in the side and starred. A crushing defeat to Premier League Leicester in the cup was followed by another great team performance as United beat big spending Derby 3-1 at the Lane. Sharp scored two goals with his second being right at the death as Scott Carson was forward for a corner for the visitors. United ended the month in a decent position and had won all their home games but lost both away games. They sat above the middle of the league and seemed to have adjusted fairly well and quickly at this level.
Just before the month ended we had transfer deadline business; a few weeks previously in had come Cameron Carter Vickers on loan from Spurs but had not started a game yet. John Brayford finally left as he went back to Burton after a summer where it seemed inevitable he would finally move on. United sought a number of targets and continuous talk centered on Southend’s Ryan Leonard but the players that came in were experienced striker Clayton Donaldson for a nominal free from Birmingham. Also signing was Motherwell defender Ben Heneghan; thought to be one for the future.
Quina and Sinclair of West Ham and Watford respectively fell through as an interesting documentary showed the events of the final day with Wilder’s reputation further growing as a result of his transparency and straight way of going about his business.
United went to Sunderland and with Clarke missing and Lavery also injured; Donaldson got the start and he scored a brace on a dream debut with Brooks impressing from the bench. The 2-1 win was built on with a narrow win at the Macron in the week as rivals from the previous season, Bolton were beaten. Carter Vickers also scored on his full debut. United were flying now and they had certainly had an excellent start to the season with the defence looking solid, the midfield excelling with Coutts, Fleck and Duffy to the fore and options up the top with the incoming Donaldson, promising Brooks and the old guard of Clarke and Sharp. Sadly many of the strikers were not available for the game at home the following Saturday against Norwich and Ched Evans got his first start back in his second spell. United controlled the game but were undone by a sucker punch and then witnessed the Canaries time waste and spoil for the entire second half as the Blades suffered their first home defeat. The build up to the next game was intense with the big anticipated Steel City derby at Hillsborough. United got Clarke back in the line up and surprised by starting Brooks alongside him and Basham in midfield to stiffen this area up. Wednesday had not had the best start but even with some injuries themselves still packed a side full of expensive talent. United’s start was astonishing. Brooks running at defenders to get a free kick and then Fleck smashed in a tremendous curling effort. Soon after Clarke ran through and beat the offside trap and slotted home. He wheeled away in front of the Wednesday Kop. United threatened to run riot and were all over their so called superior opponents. A lifeline came from Gary Hooper as he poked home but United still had chances in the second half to finish it with Clarke and Brooks both missing. The latter had showed incredible skill to out fox home defender in one move. His performance was eye opening. However, failure to take the chances saw the Owls level through Joao and suddenly the home fans were bouncing….for less than a minute. United attacked and sub Duffy sent home defender Van Aken for the pies, twisting and turning and smashing past Westwood. An unbelievable goal. After this Brooks fed Clarke and the striker clipped home. It was party time for the Blades fans. United saw out the game with a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday, Chris Wilder’ from the away end and the celebrations at full time will live long in the memory.
Fresh from the momentum of this win, United saw of league leaders Wolves 2-0. Clarke with two more goals and United were buoyant. At Forest, the Blades tore the home side apart at times with Duffy running the game and Lundstram scoring his first goal for the club but again poor finishing and some sloppy defending somehow saw us lose the game 2-1 with a header at the death from Carter Vickers hitting the post. Still September finished and United were right in the top 6 and well placed after a very good start to the season.
Two home games against established Championship sides Ipswich and Reading saw both sides well beaten. A Basham header accounting for Town before a more accomplished performance against Reading saw goals from Coutts, a stunning shot and Sharp after a great team move. It finished 2-1 but ought to have been much more. Some of the football United played was a joy to watch. On the Friday evening United had the chance to go top of the league and took it. An early goal from Sharp was cancelled out but wonder boy Brooks scored a fine goal after more good work from Duffy. ‘United, United top of the league’ sang the Blades fans. Both Wednesday and Leeds had been beaten on the road. A poor performance in London and a freak goal saw QPR beat the Blades 1-0 but they finished the month well placed in second.
The following Saturday, another great team performance saw Hull soundly beaten 4-1 with Leon Clarke giving one of the best individual performances of recent year at the Lane with four goals. Hull could not handle him at all. United then went on the road and went back to the top of the league as they beat Burton 3-1. Clarke scored again as did Sharp with a brace but the big talking point was the blow of losing talisman Coutts to a really nasty broken leg. This moment would have a significant impact on United the rest of the season. The following week a topsy turvy game saw Fulham edge a 9-goal thriller. Clarke scored another hat trick but some poor defending and slick attacking from the visitors was something we had not seen. Carter Vickers for the home side had a mare but Sessegnon for Fulham was too much for the Blades to cope with. At home the following Saturday on Sky, United needed Clarke to gain a point against a poor Birmingham side. It had been a poor week with the Coutts injury and two poor home results but United had to remain in good spirits going into the Christmas period.
A really flat performance at Millwall saw United go down despite a wonderful Brooks effort. The following week a much better showing should have been three points but United hit the woodwork four times and somehow lost at the last to a resurgent Bristol City side. The poor form continued as Preston beat United in another really lethargic showing. Still, a game at Villa Park showed United’s resolve as they fought back from two early goals with Donaldson back in the line up at the double. Boxing Day saw a bumper 30,000+ crowd and the Mackems were soundly beaten with Lundstram scoring in the first half and then first Blades goals for Stearman and Baldock. The patchy form continued to end the month as a workmanlike Bolton side snatched an unlikely win but United now were lacking the cohesion and consistency of earlier in the season.
A very good performance at Pride Park should have seen United beat Derby again but they had to be happy with a point with Clarke scoring a lovely header. A second strong side largely then won at Ipswich in the cup before the second Steel City derby came around. It was a poor game and a defensive Wednesday did enough to deservedly get a 0-0 against a strangely subdued United side that featured newcomers Lee Evans from the start and Ryan Leonard (finally signed) and Man Utd loanee James Wilson on the bench. Also signing that week was Ricky Holmes, another long time Wilder target. United got back to winning ways with a win at Norwich with Wilson and then Donaldson netting. They then saw off Preston in the FA Cup with a late Sharp penalty. Villa came to the Lane for another Sky game, who seemed to love United’s style of football and again United were the far better side but a late Snodgrass wonder goal (a staple of United’s defeats this season it seemed) gave Villa a really fortunate win. United had now dipped out of the playoff positions and the early season energy was not there with Wilder trying to blood newcomers and it all not quite working.
United were back on TV; at Wolves but got a real mauling; maybe their first of the season as the home team destroyed the Blades. Simon Moore’s sending off summed up a miserable evening. Leeds came to the Lane and United did enough to win this game with Sharp scoring another brace and a vital winning penalty. QPR then were beaten by the same score line with Stearman and Lundstram scoring. In between these games United gave a decent account at Leicester (playing some fringe players) but just losing out to a Vardy goal to go out of the cup. United seemed to be on TV every week and went to the KC Stadium but served up their worst performance of the season and deservedly lost. Wilder publicly slammed the side post game and said the season was finished. It was a bold move from the manager but got the reaction as United then beat Reading 3-1 at the Madeski with Sharp scoring another two and Duffy a peach. United were indebted to a penalty save from Simon Moore with the score still at 2-1 though.
Fulham had caused United real problems at the Lane and this continued at Craven Cottage as they saw off a United side that got overwhelmed. For the first time this season you wondered whether United had simply run out of gas. A better performance at Ipswich should have yielded three points but a Wilson shot hit the post and United had to settle for just one in the end. A scrappy performance at home to Burton followed but United did enough to win it with Stevens netting his first United goal and Brooks scoring a neat second from the bench; after a long bout out with glandular fever. Another less than convincing performance at home to Forest on a difficult pitch after overnight snow, saw United only manage a 0-0 draw and thankful to Jamal Blackman for a string of saves. United then went to Brentford after the international break and Blackman was sent off for a clash with Ryan Woods of the home side. Basham had given United the lead but Brentford levelled. However, United missed a host of good chances with Donaldson in particular guilty of not giving them the three points an excellent performance deserved.
Neil Warnock’s Cardiff came to town and results had seen United could go back in the top 6. A superb performance saw the Blades cut the Bluebirds to shreds at times but only one goal came (Clarke with his first for 3 months) and several chances went begging. Pilkington’s late goal was a hard pill to swallow in a game United completely dominated and they missed the chance to go back into the playoff places. United then went to Barnsley but an awful start saw us behind. We came back to lead and looked well set to win with Clarke scoring again but poor defending saw them get level. We then threw it away completely at the death. That may have been the crushing blow but we beat Middlesbrough with a really good performance; especially first half with two superb strikes from Lee Evans. However, in the big crunch game against Millwall we took the lead with Clarke getting another but it was short lived and despite more chances, could not force the crucial win that was needed. The following week we went to Birmingham and with Clarke missing; did not turn up and deservedly lost. That seemed it and it was confirmed a week later when any slip hopes of the playoffs finally disappeared as United meekly lost at home to Preston; another game they were the better side but gave away a poor goal. Wilder spoke passionately about the board room situation post game and the first real suggestions he may not hang around started to surface.
The final game was a dead rubber as we went to Ashton Gate and played Bristol City. We played really well actually and in relaxed mood went 3-0 with some great goals from Clarke, Sharp and the returning Freeman. A late comeback ensued but we held on and ended with a win.
Summary At the start of the season if we had known United would finish top half, we would have been delighted. It is odd though that despite us finishing ???? in some ways we were all a bit disappointed. United started the season brilliantly. For us to be top of the league at different times in October and November was amazing. Many felt mid table would be a great season. We knew it had been a while since we had been at this level and not many of our players had played Championship so it was a bit of a step into the unknown. Many mocked some of our signings and the thought of Clarke and Sharp being the front two was mocked by our local rivals. I think secretly we had some of the same fears. We probably knew the likes of O’Connell, Coutts, Fleck and Duffy may surprise some teams at this level but would have thought our defence had weaknesses and that we did not have enough goals or creativity in the side. The opening day win saw a very good Brentford side cause us problems and then we lost two away games and you wondered about the step up. We won a few more at home and the way we saw off an expensive Derby team gave us huge confidence.
We had some knocks on the way but the wins keep coming. The Wednesday win was a symbol of how much better we were than many thought; including our own fans. We then saw off an expensive Wolves side and after winning at Leeds; it seemed the real possibility of back to back promotions was on.
The Coutts injury ironically after we went back top was a hammer blow. We really missed him and with Sharp/Clarke’s goals then drying up and the form of many dropping off, we had an awful December period into January and some shocking performances after the brilliance of early on in the season. Eventually, we regrouped and the performance lifted again but we threw away so many wins/draws. Wilder signed a number of players but only really Evans came off and the likes of Leonard, Holmes and Wilson were all misses (at least with regards to this season). We dominated some good sides like Villa, Bristol City and Cardiff but failed to beat them. It seemed that we would do well to cling onto a play off spot and so it proved as we dropped out and never got back in. We had an Easter where we should have beat Brentford, Cardiff, Barnsley and Millwall but picked up only 3 points instead of 12. It was annoying as many other teams around the 5th/6th spot dropped off and were also off form. I felt in some games we showed the early season form but others looked a tired and flat group. The final few games saw us look a team that mentally and physically were shot until a late cameo against Bristol City.
So, we finished in 10th place and in affect midtable which belies some really good performances and does not quite equate with the season we had but we finished where we finished as that is where we deserved to be.
It could have been better. More investment either in the summer or January and the Coutts injury not happening and I feel we would have got in the top 6. Also, even without these things, the group internally should have seen out certain games and got more points than they had. I recall at least 8-10 games where we deserved to win or draw and lost. I cannot remember many where we won and were fortunate to win. We were not ruthless enough and made mistakes at the two ends of the pitch when mattered. This was a shame as our high energy, pressing, pass and move style for the most part was really good to watch. When we were on it, we were right there with Wolves, Fulham and Brentford for best sides to watch in the league but when we dropped off; we looked quite different.
Goals wise we relied too much on Sharp and Clarke who scored 32 goals and then 5 from Donaldson and 3 from Brooks which means we got a meagre 22 goals from elsewhere which is really poor. Last season we got 14 goals from the wing back position (this year we got 3 – 1 each from Stevens, Freeman and Baldock) and from the centre backs we got 12 last season and I think we have only got 5 this season (2 Stearman, 2 Basham and 1 Carter Vickers). However, midfield wise we got 10 between Duffy and Fleck last year and this year they got half that amount (5). We got a few from Lundstram and Evans (5 goals) but with the odd goal here and there (Coutts – 1, Carruthers – 1) ; not sure 12 goals from this area is anywhere near enough. Some midfielders for other clubs have got that in one player, Bowen, Sessegnon, Adomah, Maddison, Jota; so an area we have not done very well in.
Concession of goals has also been a problem but we have only taken a couple of pastings (Wolves and Fulham away) and often had more chances than the opposition so for all the sloppiness we have shown at the back – we have not taken opportunities or not made most of final ball in the last third.
We go into the summer with a core of good players…Baldock, Basham, O’Connell, Fleck, Duffy / Brooks, Clarke (and Coutts if he returns) should be a good spine to work with but clearly as well as these have played to get us to a top half finish there are reasons why we ended up off the pace in terms of the top 6. I will try and address this as I analyse the playing squad later on.
Final League Position : 10th
Won 20, Drew 9, Lost 17
Scored 62, Conceded 55 (GD +7)
Leading Scorer: Clarke 19
Most Appearances: O’Connell 46
Most Assists: Duffy 9
Most shots on target: Clarke 46
Passes: O’Connell 2551
Interceptions: O’Connell 104
Dribbles: Fleck 102
Clearances: O’Connell 201
Blocks: Stearman 26
Board / Club
Kevin McCabe McCabe has gone from hero to zero to hero and somewhere in between in his time at the club. It now seems like he has been here forever and had been the man in charge now since the turn of the millennium. He has been criticised for certain alleged mistruths and for not always spending money. His overseas football links have not really worked. What we cannot argue is that in his tenure we now have a fantastic stadium (and paying surface), a superb academy and now a side that is competing for the Premier League. However, despite this, we do not seem able to go that extra mile or even a few yards; in terms of team recruitment. Sure, we gave Wilder some backing in the summer and January but it was nowhere near enough compared to our rivals. Is that his fault? Does he have to spend more money or is he at that stage where he wants to be involved but would rather others take it on. It is odd that his sons have been off and then back on the various boards. There is still a heavy Scarborough Group influence on the board with McCabe, his two sons and Jeremy Tutton. The deal with the Prince was supposed to give us that next step and ‘think Liverpool style’ investment was a term used. We got promoted and you felt here we go but it never really happened. The Prince may have put money in but his influence was no greater really in terms of money required or his visibility.
McCabe sadly has to take responsibility. He signed a deal that also has clauses in it that allowed for a full takeover. Now he faces a battle in the boardroom. Something whiffs. If he fully trusts the Prince he’d sell up but clearly there is uncertainty and he wants to hang on. If he does hang on; then he will have to buy him back out (for a lot more than a £1). To quote a British sitcom; ‘It’s another fine mess he has got us into.’
You got a sense it was always a business arrangement the deal and that they always seemed a little awkward the rare times; the two were seen together. You always thought something may happen in terms of McCabe finally standing down to allow the Prince too have full control or seeking fresh investment. It was a bit of a surprise to hear that the Prince wanted to gain full control but McCabe was opposed to this and was in his words ‘going nowhere.’ It certainly seemed the relationship was not good and we still face some wrangling; maybe in the court room. It seems McCabe has become frustrated at the lack of help/investment but it does seem odd that the Prince now wants full control – he has shown nothing to suggest that he wants to take this club on further. He is never here; we do not hear from him. Not sure what his intentions are? It is all a bit odd. If he came in and took control and allowed us to spend properly on the first team but kept the heritage and ensured Wilder was kept no matter what; the fans would be fine; but many have reservations.
Certainly, I feel more comfortable with McCabe in charge in some ways and he does want the best for his club I feel. However, you sense he is not going to invest in the level we need so that situation long term. Sadly, the days of a local fan investing in the team and club with the figures we need; is unlikely and nearly every Premier League club and many others at this level have foreign owners. Some it works and some it is a disaster as shown by some big clubs such as Portsmouth, Hull, Charlton, Sunderland and Coventry that have fallen really badly and seen their club ripped in pieces with their very identities severely damaged. I am pleased that the McCabe family are still involved but they do not or will not keep chucking money at it and cannot throw the funds in we need to take it to the next level. I am pleased that whatever happens he is going to have some say over who comes in and what happens with the ownership but sadly it could go on some time which could have really damaging effects on the playing side and god forbid may end up losing the best manager we have had for a long, long time.
Prince HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Have to say I have been really disappointed with his input and influence. I am not sure his presence or investment had much to do with us getting out of the League. It was all Wilder really and even signings made at that level were nominal – we did not spend big. We went up and still little was spent. When we go to January and were ideally placed, you felt this is it, he will really chuck some money in but again it was signings that would not have cost much at all in Championship terms. He was involved in the Saudi Arabian government which took his time up but now his position as Sports Minister has come to an end. Yet, other than a fleeting trip to the Lane for the trophy presentation against Chesterfield; has he even been back to Sheffield at all since then? We have 3 of his colleague on the board to represent his interests but even the likes of Baki has been quiet recently. The appointment of the technical advisor or whatever he is cannot have been met by acclaim from Wilder.
Now he seems in dispute with McCabe. Report seem to be that he wants full control but not all the add ons that come with the club (various properties, Academy, Crookes etc), but not sure what would happen if he got full control? Would he move over here and be heavily involved? Would there be a bigger investement? Is he not investing as he only owns half the club? It is all a bit odd? I think now McCabe has a situation where if he is not happy with the deal then he has to give more than a pound back to the Prince. It seems like it may run and run for some time and I do not see an easy way out unless they get together and thrash it out in the summer. The uncertainty means I do not see any more investment coming anytime soon sadly into where it matters, the first team. I think if the Prince is that serious about the club and wanting to take his into the upper echelons he would have got full control by now and in simple terms put up the cash. He has not and that leaves me to doubt what his motives are? Is he that bothered? It is all a bit odd and the fact him or his camp have said nothing does not help his cause. United fans trust in him surely wanes day by day the lack of comments or presence of him in Sheffield. I for one am not sure it will ever work for him now and the best way out would him to get some of the money he has invested back and gracefully bow out and allow McCabe to find an investor that actually wants to invest – no easy task but 5 years later and we are still waiting on Abdullah too actually show some serious intent or indeed to actually show up.
Selahattain Baki is still around and still tweets prolifically but not sure what actual impact he has. He is not an investor and seems merely a figure representing the Prince. He said we would invest in January and would spend a fair bit. This did not happen. He has gone quite recently and not seen him about. Indeed, has any of the Prince’s representatives been around at all or even seen at the Lane? Do they attend board meetings?
The rest of the board consists of McCabe’s sons Scott McCabe and Simon McCabe are still there. Both are part of McCabe’s Scarborough Group. I am unsure how involved these are but have seen more of them around than before and at the later games Scott (must admit do get them mixed up) was always there. McCabe may be looking to pass on the baton more with his age. Martin Green has run Redtooth a gaming company, based in Barlborough and he now oversees the board’s non footballing decisions as another vice chairman. McCabe appointed Tareq Hawasli to the board but we have heard little from him. Not sure he is even connected to the Prince. His CV suggests he has industry experience extends from real estate to energy (including oil, natural gas and alternative energy), IT, healthcare and commodities coupled with extensive experience with both conventional and Shariah compliant financial structures.
Yusuf Giansiracusa is a new-ish face and another on the Prince’s side. He seems more of an advisor than a ‘money man’. Specialising in representing clients and commercial and corporate transactions. Another that seems anonymous and not sure how involved he is, if at all.
Jeremy Tutton is another part of the Scarborough Group and is very much another financial guy; reading his bio on the company website.
Jan Van Wincklel came in as part of a surprise move. Van Winckel, who holds a UEFA Pro License was a technical expert for FIFA, has joined the Blades board. Mr Van Winckel is also an expert panel member for the Asian Football Confederation in Coach Education and Youth Development. He also joins the board of the holding company, Blades Leisure Limited (BLL).
Mr Van Winckel led the Saudi Arabian football team, as chairman of the technical committee, to the World Cup in Russia. He also held several coaching jobs and was for several years the assistant manager of the famous coach Marcelo Bielsa at Olympique de Marseille in France.
The technical football board is not really separate anymore and, in the programme, there is no mention of such but we have the Blades Leisure Limited (BLL) which is separate to the football club board.
Not sure this was a McCabe endorsed move at all and all the quotes suggest the Prince wanted him. Prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad observed: "Jan is someone whom I have known for a while now. He is an experienced football man and we are delighted to have him as part of the team at board level." Wilder cannot have been that impressed when he had the likes of Paul Mitchell and Carl Shieber involved. We did not hear much from this new guy. He tweeted when United won but never saw him around or in the directors box. I would concede that we do need to spread our horizons in terms of where we invest from and have become a bit too UK centric. It has worked but would not work if we want to push forward.
David Green was involved but not sure he is even there anymore? He headed up a Construction firm based in Renishaw; Green Pilin and was involved in some of the football operations but seems to have gone.
Carl Shieber oversees player contract negotiations and Wilder has alluded to his role being important and is still around I believe. We have a new Chief Operating Officer in Andrew Birks who was supposed to have replaced Stephen Bettis who went to live in Los Angeles but then some suggested he was still involved. It was all a bit unclear.
What was clear is there is essentially two sides to the board; the McCabe’s and his men and the Prince and his men. There does not seem to be much unity or agreement reading between the lines and it surely is now going to come to a head in terms of one side moving out or the other.
Dave McCarthy is involved still as Operations Director and we also have Paul Reeves as the head of marketing. We got a bit bigger sponsorship deal with Teletext holidays who seemed linked to some of the previous companies we were involved in having acquired Alpha rooms and this lasts for a further season I believe and we have another year on our current kit deal with Adidas. The home kit was superb this season – one of the best we have had and quite distinctive which is not always the case with Adidas using templates for a number of clubs. Worryingly not sure we can top this effort next season. Not so sure on the away kit – the purple one that seemed to be a nod to our sponsors. The white shirt was lovely though. Look forward to a return to a nice yellow and red version of an away shirt all being well. Adidas seem to be doing a great job if emulating some classics for the World Cup so fingers crossed they will get us a couple of good one again. The partnership has worked and we are one of their best-selling kits so make sense for them to want to continue.
As an aside the two groundsmen; Glenn Nortcliffe and Kelly Barrowclough have now had the lovely Desso pitch to work with and have to say how impressive this has looked certainly compared to some our rivals who have a similar model but not as good clearly. We had the shocking weather from Xmas to April with snowfall, rain and we only saw one game off but that was the surrounding streets rather than pitch. The pitch cut up quite badly after the Forest and then Cardiff games but they got both of them on and still saw us play good football. The last few games they somehow got it back to the great condition it had been. For most of the season it was remarkable to see it look so pristine even in say February after the winter. It has certainly been a good investment.
Grade E (Last season B+)
We have to sort out the boardroom in terms of who is in charge moving forward. They have to kiss and make up and agree the best way forward in terms of joint investment etc but not sure that is going to happen now or one of them will get full control. If it is McCabe will then seek new investment anyway from elsewhere so that would take quite a bit of time. If the Prince does take over then he has to show something; anything really of ambitious note. He needs to in simple terms get himself over here and be present, prominent or failing that properly back the first team manager. I worry whichever outcome; it is going to take time and not be resolved this summer which will further set us back really. Our window with Wilder might only be the next couple of years at best and could be less after some of his comments recently; as he is an ambitious man. Infighting and lack of proper direction at boardroom level could completely throw away this chance.
It seems to me there are three things that could happen. We carry on with the infighting and nobody gets control and that means no real funds and Wilder may well go. McCabe buys the Prince back out and looks for new investment but that again could take a while to sort and no sense McCabe is going to pump millions into the team any time soon. The third option is that the Prince gets full control and puts some real money in. Wilder seems to prefer McCabe from the bits I have heard but if he gets full control again; not sure he will see any money? The third option has a lot of risk but may have a high reward.
Off the field; the ground still looks good and remains one of the best outside the top flight. The plans for the extensions to the Kop and South Stand are in place but not sure these will happen anytime soon. We need to get things right on the pitch first. If we ever went up and stayed up; then sure the summer of that close season work could start on either of those projects but not sure they are priority at the moment even though the facilities on the Kop are very poor.
Season ticket prices went up but you kind of expected that and is still great value for money; especially for the younger fan. I expect us to match or even surpass last years season ticket sales and would not be surprised if we regularly have crowds close to 30,000 next season. We have close to 27,000 average and that placed us 6th and only just behind a few teams with only Villa and Leeds over 30,000 average for the season.
Overall, the club is well set; big crowds, great manager, spine of a good side and with a few first-class additions could be competing for promotion again but that boardroom situation is a big elephant hanging over Bramall Lane and needs resolving and fast.