Sheffield United manager Slavisa Jokanovic has said he is not looking to loan out struggling forward Rhian Brewster during the January transfer window, despite the 21-year-old’s struggles for goals and game time.
The England youth international was missing from the Blades’ matchday squad for last weekend’s tie against Stoke City, with David McGoldrick and Lys Mousset appearing on the bench as alternatives to Billy Sharp up top.
Both substitutes ended up making a major impact at Bramall Lane when they came on, with McGoldrick setting up Mousset for the equaliser before the former converted Enda Stevens’ cross from the left-hand side to complete their fightback and claim all three points.
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This omission of Brewster comes after he was left on the bench as an unused substitute for the three games prior to the international break, going on duty with England’s U21 squad but failing to do himself justice as he received a harsh red card against Andorra.
Jokanovic later confirmed he didn’t suffer an injury during the break with Lee Carsley’s men, but actively took the decision to drop him and Oli McBurnie in favour of McGoldrick and Mousset, potentially creating speculation over the 21-year-old’s future after struggling for form at Bramall Lane since his arrival last October.
Considering the South Yorkshire currently have Sharp, McGoldrick, Mousset, McBurnie and Brewster as options up top, with Daniel Jebbison a promising forward currently out on loan at Burton Albion, a temporary move away wouldn’t have been out of the question, but the manager has seemingly ruled out this possibility.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference to the Sheffield Star, Jokanovic said: “(I am) not thinking (about a loan move), we are thinking about how to balance our squad, not a January loan.
“He wasn’t in the squad for the last game because I had two strikers on the bench and to find the balance, normally I try to find two defenders two midfielders and two strikers, I tried with three strikers with Didzy (McGoldrick) half and half, it’s simple.
“If I say I consider the guy one of the most talented English players, and I don’t put him in the team you can ask me where is the sense.
“The sense is simple, be brave and work hard and compete with other people and change the mind. I gave other people more chances because I believe it’s the right decision for my side. For Rhian, it’s an opportunity to change my mind.”
In the end, a loan spell away from Sheffield United might be what Brewster needs after a torrid first 12 months there. Scoring just one goal for the club after his £23.5m move from Liverpool, his confidence must be at his lowest and his sending off on international duty won’t have helped matters.
But now he’s been set a challenge by manager Jokanovic to force his way back into the first team, he will have to work extra hard in training to earn his spot and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this proved to be the turning point in his career.
He will have a major point to prove if/when he does return to the first-team squad – and that 10% of extra hunger and motivation could allow him to get back into goalscoring form. Scoring 11 goals in 22 games for Swansea during his spell there in 2019/20, the Serbian manager already knows his capabilities.
But translating that to a side with such a high amount of competition in the forward department is a different kettle of fish – and it could be sink or swim time for the 21-year-old as he looks to get his career back on track.
As a huge talent, he has the physical tools to make it happen. But football is also a mental game – and he needs to be in the right mindset if he wants to perform well consistently for the Blades.