Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom has said the club’s focus on the long term as part of their transfer strategy is because they don’t want to be left behind by their rivals, making this admission to The Star.
The Blades’ strategy for this term has been very much focused on the short term, with the club leaving it late in the summer to recruit four loanees as they sought to fill gaps in their side created by departures at the end of last term.
Free agent Adlene Guedioura also joined last year to provide depth in a midfield that looked especially threadbare following the departure of John Lundstram on the expiration of his contract at Bramall Lane.
Quiz: Which club did Sheffield United sign these 24 players from in the 1990s?
And that short-term focus was maintained in January with Adam Davies coming in to replace Robin Olsen and Michael Verrips – and centre-back Charlie Goode arrived on loan to provide depth in a defence that was severely lacking depth following their switch to a back three during the latter stages of 2021.
Injury problems with Goode out and Basham also absent for a considerable amount of time before his return meant they re-entered the market to recruit Filip Uremovic until the end of the season, something that was made possible by a FIFA rule that allowed non-Russian players in Russia to suspend their contracts after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
They did purchase 19-year-old Joe Starbuck from Grimbsy Town last September though, with the teenager being called up to the first-team squad on two occasions despite not yet making his senior debut for the Blades.
Focusing on the bigger picture is something Heckingbottom wants to do at Bramall Lane with his transfer strategy, explaining his thinking to the Sheffield Star.
He said: “Sometimes, you’re looking at a particular person, not for now but maybe for a few years down the line.
“Because of things that you expect to develop here and because that’s when you think they might be ready.
“Not everyone matures at the same speed. So it’s a constant juggling act if you like. Names can get put on there and others might get struck off.
“We don’t want to get left behind. We want to be in a position where we can move quickly, which is why you have to try and stay a few steps ahead.”
It’s often difficult for a side like the Blades to plan ahead too far because they could potentially return to the top tier at the end of this season or the 2022/23 campaign – and what league they will be in will determine the budget they have and the type of players they will want to recruit.
This is why they should be focusing on younger players for now who have the potential to make the move up to the top tier – because they could potentially be suitable for both the top flight and the second tier.
Despite the uncertainty though, something that has been made even more complex by their potential takeover, contingency plans should be in place to deal with different scenarios in the coming years and that will give them the best chance of being successful.
There are a couple of key players who may leave Bramall Lane in the next couple of years in Chris Basham and Billy Sharp – and United will want similar players in South Yorkshire to step up and be long-serving players.
Recruiting youngsters and building them up before unleashing them will increase the players’ chances of being successful at United and with that, will increase the entire club’s chances of success.