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As Sheffield United prepare for our 6th ever season in the Premier League, following a 2nd placed finish in the Championship last campaign, you’d think that the atmosphere around the club would be that of an optimistic bunch, but everyone knows that’s not quite how The Blades do things.

From the failed takeover bid of the self-proclaimed “colourful” Iraq-born business-woman-turned lawyer Samantha Kane, who was born Sam Hashimi, then became Samantha, then Charles and now happy living as Samantha again, to the insanity of selling our 2 best strikers on deadline day of January 1998, leading a side who only lost once before December to go from a dead-cert for promotion to the Premier League, to eventually barely scrape a play-off finish on goals scored, in which we lost, in traditional Sheffield United fashion. It’s clear we’re never a club that goes about it’s business the “easy way”.


Since the 90’s, things haven’t got much better, in fact, you don’t have to look any further than last year to find a prospective owner jailed for wire fraud and then another who agreed to buy the club and has since come under fire for bending Malawian passport rules.

Maybe you’d be forgiven for thinking that promotion was a break for us Blades fans, however we go into the season with a number of huge problems, namely, a mass injury crisis, an owner that is doing everything to try and sell the club as he can’t afford to run it, our two best players, Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge both being sold in the off-season with no direct replacements seemingly lined up, and a toxic atmosphere towards the club as us supporters become increasingly frustrated with the fact that our side for the upcoming Premier League season, as it stands, is one much weaker than the unit that secured promotion in April. All of these factors combined make it unsurprising that almost everyone is predicting an immediate return to the Championship and the optimism of promotion has long faded.

The Window So Far:



  • Yasser Larouci, LB (22)—ESTAC Troyes — Loan to buy (~£3m)
  • Anis Ben Slimane, CM (22) — Brøndby IF — Fee rising to ~£2.5m
  • Bénie Traoré, CF (20) — BK Häcken — ~£4m
  • Auston Trusty, CB (24) — Arsenal — £5m
  • Vinicius Souza, DM (24) — Lommel SK — Reported as €12m, roughly £10m (Pending)


  • Iliman Ndiaye, AM/CF (23) — Olympique de Marseille — ~£17m
  • Sander Berge, CM (25) — Burnley — £12m (Pending)
  • Enda Stevens, LWB (32) — Stoke City — Free Transfer
  • Billy Sharp, CF (37) — Contract Expired
  • Jack O’Connell, CB (29) — Retired
  • James McAtee, AM (20) and Tommy Doyle, CM (21) — Manchester City — Loans Expired
  • Ciaran Clark, CB (33) — Newcastle United — Loan Expired

As you can tell, this is not a good window, not only have 3 star players from last season in Doyle, McAtee and Ndiaye left the club, with Berge too likely out of the door in the coming days, the ins are severely lacking, 3 midfielders have left and only 1, potentially 2, have come in and only a young, inexperienced, albeit promising Bénie Traoré has replaced club legend Billy Sharp and star boy Iliman Ndiaye in attack. With time ticking away in the window one thing is clear. Investment is needed.

The Squad:


This honestly makes for grim reading. In goal there have been questions raised, though in my opinion it isn’t a huge area of concern, and for a side that play a back 3, we only have 4 CBs that most would class as even passable in the Premier League, this not counting Rhys Norrington-Davies who is yet to return from a serious, long-term injury. At LWB there are definite question marks over both Lowe and Larouci, and then you get to the middle of the park. When/if a deal is completed, you’d expect that Vinicius Souza would occupy the deepest of a 3, with Norwood backing him up. After that, things get a bit more bleak, only Osborn, Slimane, Coulibaly, Brooks and Neal (likely to leave on loan) occupy the 2 spots ahead. New signing Slimane has yet to play a competitive game for us so can’t really be judged but the rest leave a lot to be desired. And then up top, we have options, though it’s not really known how many of them will actually have the quality, and more importantly, the availability to be able to get firing in the top flight.

Another thing of note is how poor the squad planning has been, no less than 15 (yes FIFTEEN) first team players have contracts which expire at the end of this season, meaning a lot of budget and time will have to be spent on renewing contracts for some of these players which could serve as a distraction during this campaign. Alternatively, you could put a positive spin on this, some of these players will likely know that they are playing for their future and this could spur them on to really up their game.

list of all players in first team squad, including ages, nationalities and contract expiry dates.|700x744

Look at all those 2024 contract expiries!!!!

In my opinion, lots more bodies are needed if we are to even put up a proper fight this season. Even if Souza comes in we are still extremely weak in midfield and have no real ball progressors barring the aging Norwood which is something that simply has to be addressed. I’d even argue that one more midfield addition still wouldn’t be enough. Osborn is energetic but definitely suits more of a role filling in for 20 mins at the end of a game in whatever position he is needed and while I don’t want to drag him down before he’s even started, it seems as if Slimane has a lot of work to do to get up to the intensity of the Premier League, particularly off the ball. Andre Brooks has been impressive when he’s featured but I think the 19 year old shouldn’t yet have the pressure on his shoulders of regular Premier League game time while Ismaila Coulibaly has started just once since he joined up with the squad in 2022.

Another area where additions are needed is at the back. A CB to come in and give back-up to John Egan certainly wouldn’t go amiss. The Irishman has a very impressive record when it comes to availability but you wouldn’t want to have to rely on 1 man at the heart of your defence for a whole 38 game season.

Iliman Ndiaye and James McAtee are also yet to be replaced, meaning the creativity of our attack has been severely depleted and an attacking midfield type player to bring this, and goals, back into our squad would be ideal.

One more thing still needs to be addressed too, it’s still unclear whether we will stick with the 3–4–2–1 that saw us finish last season and provides a great shape or move back to a more traditional (and in my opinion far worse), 3–5–2 as we have played in pre-season. Personally I’d much rather see us play the 3–4–2–1, though it would make our task of recruitment a little bit harder as it would be crucial to ensure the roles of this system are adequately fulfilled. Requirements include at least 1, ideally 2 midfielders who comfortable receiving deep, good on the turn and can then progress the ball forward, a crucial skill we have lost in Sander Berge’s imminent departure. It also means we’d have to get at least one number 10, a player who is good at creating chances through finding space and can operate mainly in the half-space but also drift out to provide an option for our WBs to pass to in possession. Fortunately last season we had the quality of McAtee and Ndiaye in these roles, but they are two very talented players who can’t be replaced easily.


3–5–2 vs 3–4–2–1

Not only does the 3–4–2–1 naturally give you a much better shape in build-up (back 3 and double pivot midfield creating a 3–2), it also leaves the CF way less isolated than the 2 CFs are in a 3–5–2. It is also much more flexible in attack and covers the vertical zones of the pitch (centre, half-spaces and wings/channels) much better. Admittedly though, the 3–5–2 does have it’s benefits, of course it does or no one would use it. From an out of possession perspective the 3–5–2 (5–3–2) is super effective at limiting space in behind for the opposition and forcing a lot of the play out wide, this is often very beneficial as the 3 CBs should always be favoured to win aerial duels vs 1 or 2 strikers.

My Verdict:

This is going to be an extremely hard season no doubt about it. As I walked up Eyre Street towards the car-park following our 4–1 win vs PNE, the final home game of last season, I remarked that I thought we’d definitely stay up due to the fact we were, at that time, limiting teams to very few opportunities in games while also being good at taking our own chances, 2 skills which have proven to be of great aid when fighting at the bottom of the Premier League. Now my outlook is so different, having sold, in my opinion, our 2 best players, it is always going to be an up-hill battle. With the start of the season just a couple of days way, depending on when this is published, we really haven’t brought in enough quality imo however there is still time for this to change in the window. I expect we’ll bring in 2 domestic loans and maybe 3 signings on top of that and if this ends up being Souza, 2 CMs, an AM and CB cover I’d be quite happy with that in the end. I really do hope we back Hecky in the rest of the window. If anyone deserves it, it’s him. His job has been made so much harder by the constant behind-the-scenes murmurings and off field struggles yet he has sill delivered 18 months of good memories, a day out at Wembley, great performances and a return to the top flight.


And so, as Sheffield United, we really just have to do what we did so effectively the last time we were promoted to the Premier League. Get behind the team. Make a real effort to be the 12th man and to give the players as big of a boost as we Blades can, from the Greasy Chip Butty vs Palace, to the final whistle vs Spurs in May.


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