After such an impressive first season in the Premier League, Sheffield United spent the entire 2020/21 campaign in the relegation zone and finished bottom of the table.
For a side who enjoyed two promotions in three years under Chris Wilder and spent many years on the rise, this was a huge blow and left many Blades fans wondering what the future would hold.
Wilder’s departure was widely questioned despite United not winning a single league game until January and caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom didn’t fare much better, even with the former Barnsley manager winning three of his last six Premier League games in charge.
In the end, Sheffield United lost 29 of their 38 top flight games last season, scoring a measly 20 goals and recording just five clean sheets in the process.
After their relegation back to the Championship, they are set to witness several transfer sagas during the summer and could lose a couple of key players going into the 2021/22 season, which could be a vital campaign in terms of the direction they are going in.
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England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, who performed well in the latter stages of 2020/21, and midfielder Sander Berge are two players who are likely to attract major interest in the next few months.
Whatever happens, this really is a crucial season for the Blades. Are they set to continue their decline and perhaps end up back in League One, a division they were in not so long ago? Or will the club fire themselves back to the Premier League after showing so much promise in the campaign before last when they secured a ninth-place finish?
Well, the appointment of Slavisa Jokanovic almost guarantees the halt of United’s decline.
After leading Watford and Fulham to Championship promotion, the Serbian manager will be hoping to make it three and get the very best out of the players at his disposal.
Jokanovic’s CV shows his pedigree in this division and after spending two years out in Qatar, he will be refreshed and ready to go again, all the better for his time in Asia.
Former manager Wilder was key in the club’s initial Premier League success, elevating the bulk of his squad from Championship players to stars competing for a place in Europe.
His permanent successor can have a similar impact, definitely in the short-term anyway in getting his side back to the top flight.
While it’s uncertain how the manager would do in the Premier League next time around, the club’s top priority must be their short-term stability.
Short-termism in some situations is often frowned upon in football for the right reasons, but a strategy to focus on the here and now is what Sheffield United need in their current predicament.
Their future success on the pitch and financial health off it depends on this strategy.
The board’s first decision in appointing a manager of Slavisa Jokanovic’s calibre is a masterstroke – now is the time to build on it.