Despite a spirited effort over two legs, Sheffield United lost out to Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off semi-finals earlier in May, meaning that for a second consecutive season they will play in the second tier of English football.
The Blades made a mid-season managerial switch from Slavisa Jokanovic to Paul Heckingbottom which worked as they made it into the top six, but unfortunately for the club’s fans it was no further.
There is work to be done to strengthen the playing squad this summer, with their star player from the previous campaign in Morgan Gibbs-White unlikely to be plying his trade in the Championship next season.
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At the other end of the pitch in defence there is also issues that need to be addressed – Ben Davies will head back to Liverpool following his loan deal, Jack O’Connell’s future is uncertain after nearly two years out with a knee injury, whilst Filip Uremovic – who arrived in March after his contract with Rubin Kazan was suspended – has already signed for Hertha Berlin.
It leaves Heckingbottom needing at least a couple of fresh faces, and they could very well raid their South Yorkshire neighbours Barnsley for a suitable addition in Michal Helik.
The Tykes were relegated to League One for the 2022-23 season, putting them in a vulnerable position when it comes to trying to keep their best assets.
They would include Callum Styles, Carlton Morris and Cauley Woodrow, but perhaps the best of the lot is Helik.
Helik was a relative unknown when he arrived at Oakwell in September 2020 from Cracovia in his native Poland, but he formed part of a resolute back-line under Valerien Ismael in his debut season in England, helping Barnsley reach the Championship play-offs and also won the club’s Player of the Year award.
His form for Barnsley saw him earn a first Poland international cap, and whilst the club struggled and were eventually relegated this past season, Helik did his very best to keep the damage to a minimum.
When it came to interceptions per match in the Championship for centre-backs, Helik was ranked third only behind Shaun Hutchinson and Kristian Pedersen, averaging 2.5 per game, according to WhoScored – whilst only being behind Harry Souttar for clearances per match, averaging 5.4 of those.
They are key attributes that could be useful to Heckingbottom’s defence next season – especially with the lack of current depth and also Chris Basham’s advancing years, meaning he may not be able to play 46 matches a season.
Helik isn’t exactly a progressive, ball-playing and carrying centre-back that may have been seen in Chris Wilder’s old system, but he’s incredibly solid defensively at Championship level and if the 26-year-old wants his international career to progress, then there may not be a better place for him than Bramall Lane next season – providing Barnsley are willing to sell for the right price.
There won’t be major money to spend at United this summer, but they can afford at least one signing for a seven-figure fee, and Helik could be the ideal candidate for that.