post

Should more United youngsters follow Sam Graham to the Central Coast?

Academy players from England’s top sides are conventionally sent out on-loan down the English pyramid system, obtaining first-team football at a club in a lower division than their parent club. However, modern football is adapting with more and more young English talents preferring to be sent abroad in a bid for regular football, instead of rocketing down to a league below.

Sheffield United are a club following this trend, currently having three academy prospects out on-loan outside of Britain which leaves the question, is it more effective sending academy players out on-loan abroad?

Sam Graham and Stephen Mallon, both joined the A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners in January and have both been brought directly into the club’s first-team plans. Whilst, Jordan Doherty joined Tampa Bay Rowdies, who are coached by former Blades defender Neil Collins.

Focusing on Graham’s career so far, having developed in United’s Shirecliffe academy since the age of 10, the 18-year-old defender had no knowledge of football outside of Sheffield. Therefore, to give the youngster some valuable first-team experience, Chris Wilder sent him out on-loan to League Two club Oldham Athletic at the start of this current campaign. However failing to impress then manager Frankie Bunn, Graham only managed a handful of league appearances which led to him returning to Bramall Lane early January.

A-League Rd 20 - Central Coast v Brisbane : News Photo

Sam Graham celebrates as the Central Coast Mariners battle back against Brisbane Roar FC

Since then, the young centre-half joined the Australian side, and has managed to print his name on the starting line-up of every league fixture since his arrival. But, not only is Graham receiving consistent first-team football, he is also getting the leisure of experiencing a different countries lifestyle and culture, in conjunction with improving his footballing ability.

In an exclusive interview with Mariners coach Andy Thomson, when asked how Graham and Mallon had fitted into the group, he said: “The boys adapted to the Australian game almost instantly and are always putting in 100% commitment during training.”

“We know their situation, and their desire to play football matches, and so far they’re giving us no reason to sit them out. We obviously don’t have the financial power of some of the other clubs in our league but having a partnership with a big club like Sheffield United is a great asset, and you’ve got to thank Monty for that. I can only see the relationship between the two clubs growing stronger in the coming years.”

Soccer - Hyundai A-League - Central Coast Mariners vs. Queensland Roar : News Photo

The Central Coast Stadium, formerly Bluetongue Stadium

Nonetheless, the Blades aren’t the first British team to capture rewards of having a foreign affiliate, Chelsea have sent several wonderkids over to Vitesse in the Netherlands to attain first-team football. Mason Mount, and Lewis Baker are two examples, who spent a season in Holland, before making their careers back in England, as both players are now enjoying successful spells at Derby and Reading respectively.

On a smaller scale, West-Midlands outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers have recently formed an affiliation with Spanish club FC Jumilla. The Wanderers currently have five of their academy prospects out on-loan there, with the hope these youngsters can gain experience to be able to challenge for a first-team spot back in England.

Former St Mirren coach Thomson also spoke about his beliefs on why younger English talent should take the venture away from England and challenge themselves in an unfamiliar environment.

“I do think more young British players should challenge themselves and move away from Britain if they’re not getting enough first-team chances. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone and trying to adapt to other countries rules and style of play will only help you develop, as I’ve learnt during my time coaching outside of Britain,” Thomson said.

“Learning and getting advise from a number of different coaches can only benefit young players, and especially if the foreign clubs where you are loaned have a similar philosophy like Sheffield United and us, it can only benefit a player when they return back home.”

Categorically, it may start to become a regular occurrence for top-flight British clubs to send their talented academy prospects on-loan to foreign countries, instead of keeping them in a domestic league. Displaying, that it could be more effective for player development, if players are able to gain first-team experiences outside of the English system.

post

PREVIEW: Blades travel to the Hawthorns for six-point clash

Sheffield United are able to go four points clear of their West-Midlands based promotion rivals, with a victory at the historic Hawthorns.

Chris Wilder’s team head into this fixture, following their largest win of the campaign. Annihilating relegation-bound Reading 4-0, with new-signing Gary Madine opening his Blades account with a brace in front of the United faithful.

On the other hand, West Brom’s squad have had to prepare for this marquee match with significantly less rest, as they travelled to QPR midweek. Resting key midfielders Gareth Barry, and Rakeem Harper, Darren Moore’s side were still able to snatch the three points in the 94th winner through Jake Livermore.

Sheffield United v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship : News Photo

Kieran Gibbs celebrates scoring against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, December 2018

Additionally, starlet Dwight Gayle is also set to return for the televised fixture, having served a two-match ban after being punished by the Football Association for successful deception of a match official. The 28-year-old is likely to replace Jefferson Montero in the starting 11, who scored his first Baggies goal at Loftus Road.

For the Blades, Chris Basham is available again following his suspension. The versatile defender has served a two-match for 10 yellow cards, and could be recalled to the starting lineup on Saturday.

Moreover, George Baldock and Jack O’Connell have both been undergoing treatment for calf and hamstring injuries respectively, with Wilder being very hopeful that the pair can be included in the match day squad. Dynamic goal scoring duo Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick could also be brought back into the team after the duo, who have scored a combined 33 league goals, were rested against Reading.

Inevitably, Moore and Wilder mutually will be in desperate need for a fully-fit squad going into this six-point clash, as boths team will be hoping they can promote their bid for an automatic promotion spot, with a declared victory.

Match Stats:

West Brom are looking to complete a league double over the South-Yorkshire based side for the first time since the 1998/99 campaign.

The Blades haven’t beaten West Brom at the Hawthorns since October 2003, when they won 2-0 with goals from Michael Tonge and Ashley Ward.

The Baggies have kept fewer home clean sheets than any other Championship club this season, only maintain two.

United skipper Billy Sharp has scored with all eight of his headed shots on target this season, making him the most prolific aerial threat in the division.

Jay Rodriguez has been involved in 14 goals in 16 league games at the Hawthorns, having scored 10 goals, and providing four assists.

Wilder’s men have lost only one of their last 11 league fixtures, winning seven, and drawing three.

 

 

post

Madine opens his account, as United stick four past Reading

Opting to start the game without top goal scorers Billy Sharp, and David McGoldrick, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was ecstatic that his selection gamble paid off after they hammered Reading to temporarily go second in the table. 

Wing-back Kieron Freeman opened the scoring just after 38 seconds, following a six-week absence from the first team, which was the beginning of a ruthless performance from the Blades.

United soon made it two when on-loan striker Gary Madine scored his first goal for the club, leathering the ball into the top-left corner, after some outstanding pressing work from John Fleck who forced an error from Reading’s backline.

Madine added to his tally late in the first half, latching onto a perfect first-time cross from Marvin Johnson. His shot was unstoppable as it rippled into the back of Emiliano Martinez’s goal, giving Wilder’s side an impressive 3-0 lead.

Additionally, Martinez was left stranded in the centre of his goal for United’s fourth, as a long-range effort from Fleck took a deflection off Reading defender Matt Miazga en route to goal, putting an end to the one-sided encounter.

When asked about his team’s impressive performance, and the reasoning behind his team-selection changes, Wilder responded: “The easy call was to keep the same team. I feared a slow game and a tired game, it was important we had an energetic performance. I wanted us to play a little more forward, Gary Madine and Scott Hogan allowed us to do that.”

reading-5c-20po_36555057.png

Moving forward, during his time at Bramall Lane Wilder has be known for his adopted progressive attacking style, and possession-based tactics. However, this game painted a totally different picture compared to a typical Sheffield United performance.

Whilst, the Blades commonly exit fixtures with a dominant possession percentage, especially on home soil, on Saturday Reading enjoyed a much more time on the ball than the hosts. Predominantly focusing on the Royal’s weakness in midfield, Wilder set out his side to constantly press the opposition forcing an interception of play, which would then be followed by a quick, and direct counter-attack through either Johnson, Fleck, or Mark Duffy.

This is also evident through the more laid-back approach from midfield maestro Oliver Norwood. The Northern Ireland international would usually be used to sit deep, controlling the tempo of the game, alongside creating time and space for his teammates to slowly push the ball forward into the opposition’s half. Subsequently, Norwood only made 50 successful passes from his usual 70 passes per game on average, proving how he was told to focus more on his defensive duties, and wait to pounce on an error in midfield.

Undoubtedly, Madine’s magnificent performance in front of goal, providing two goals and one assist, cannot be ignored. However, his performance shouldn’t overshadow how much of an impact Scottish midfielder Fleck had on the game.

fleck-5c-20vs-5_36555713.pngIntercepting the ball more than any other United player, alongside attempting the second-highest amount of tackles. Fleck’s engine-like work-rate was a pivotal part as to why the Blades so easily dominated the play. Playing a typical box-to-box central midfielder, Fleck didn’t tire for the entirety of the game, as well as covering more ground than any other player for either side.

Seemingly the best player on the pitch, defensively and moving the ball forward, Fleck undeniably will have to continue putting in man of the match performances like against Reading. As, Wilder must now prepare his side for an automatic promotion six-pointer against Midlands club West Bromwich Albion next weekend.

post

PREVIEW: Blades look to bounce back following six-goal thriller

High-flying pair Sheffield United and Middlesborough meet at Bramall Lane tonight, with Tony Pulis’ team able to narrow the gap to only one point if they are capable to dethrone the South-Yorkshire based side.

United squandered their chance to temporarily go top of the Championship table last friday, throwing away an emphatic three-goal lead in the final eight minutes at Villa Park. Captain Billy Sharp had hit a vintage fox in the box style hat-trick against Aston Villa, for the hosts only to leave it late with a heartbreaking end in the tail for Blades fans alike.

Blades boss Chris Wilder was bewildered post-match having witnessed his trustworthy number one Dean Henderson make two blundering errors late in the fixture. As well as, the consistent Jack O’Connell miss kicking the ball to the feet of John McGinn who delivered it into Andre Green, who inevitably stole a point for the Villains.

On the other hand, Boro seemed destined to bounce back with a victory against promotion-rivals Leeds United on Saturday, following their collapse defeat in the hands of Newport County in the FA Cup. Unfortunately, despite Lewis Wing opening the scoring for Boro early in the second half, the Teesiders only had themselves to blame as they we’re unable to hold out Kalvin Phillips who rifled a stoppage-time equaliser past Darren Randolph’s sticks.

Intimidating defender Aden Flint will be rueing his missed chances, who really should have put the hosts in front on two different occasions. But by sitting deep, and inviting pressure onto their defensive-line, Leeds eventually broke their resistance, which may be the case again at Bramall Lane if Pulis has the same intention to drop deep instead of attempting to combat a high-pressure system.

Additionally, Sheffield United may have a cause of concern having only won two of their last 10 meetings with the Teeside club, however both of those victories have come in encounters at Bramall Lane.

sufc-5c-20v-5c-_36380806.png

Chris Wilder’s outfit have shown many fantastic performances against the Championship’s lesser powers, but Friday’s missed opportunity at Villa Park was another instance of the Blades dropping points opposite to the division’s elite. The hosts have won just four of their fixtures against top-half sides, with Norwich being the only team in the top-six that United have been able to snatch a point from; leaving an distinct issue.

Similarly, the Teessiders have failed to maintain a consistent run of form, with them only securing back-to-back league victories on one occasion since August. However, this hasn’t sanctioned them out of the automatic promotion race, due to their officency against top-six sides, where they have only faced defeat once.

The visitors have only been beaten twice on away soil this campaign, also coming away from West Brom, and Bristol City, two sides who currently occupy top-six positions, with maximum points. This impressive away form may put them slight favourites at Bramall Lane, as United have failed to win away at any of the top-half outfits.

Subsequently, the Blades are without versatile centre-half Chris Basham due to his suspension from accumulation of 10 yellow cards. On-loan Marvin Johnson is also unavailable due to terms in his contract with parent club Boro. Although, Scott Hogan may obtain his first United appearance due to the same terms ruling him out of the Aston Villa fixture.

Differently, Pulis will have to assess forward Britt Assombalonga, after he passed a fitness test before the Leeds game. Midfielders Mo Besic and Adam Clayton may also return to the starting 11 after both facing lengthy spells on the bench.

Match facts:

Sheffield United’s 2-1 victory over Boro last term, is their only victory in the two-clubs previous five meetings, with Boro winning the other four.

However, Boro have won just once in their last nine fixtures when travelling to Bramall Lane, in all competitions.

The South-Yorkshire side are unbeaten in the last 12 home league fixtures when playing on a Wednesday evening, with the last falling in 1993 losing 1-0 to Norwich City.

Since Chris Wilder has taken over at Bramall Lane, they have won 70% of their home league fixtures when Skipper Sharp has started (35/50) compared to just 27% when he hasn’t (3/11).

 

 

 

 

post

PREVIEW: Sharp goes head-to-head with Abraham

Sheffield United travel to Villa Park to take on Dean Smith’s out of form Aston Villa, in a bid to knock Leeds United, and Norwich City off the top of the Championship table. 

With Aston Villa’s playoff dreams slowly fading away, having only won one of their last six fixtures. Chris Wilder’s team have an opportunity to take the Championship’s top spot with a win at Villa Park.

The Blades ride into this fixture in great form, facing defeat on one occasion in their last eight league appearances. Sitting in third, only three points behind Leeds, and Norwich, whilst Smith’s Villa start the fixture in ninth, 11 points behind United.

villa-5c-20v-5c_36193052.png

Sheffield United will be without Villa loanee Scott Hogan, with the striker ineligible under his terms of the loan deal. Apart from Hogan, United’s squad is in great physical shape, giving Wilder some big selection calls to make.

On the other hand, midfielder Jack Grealish is still out with a shin injury, but is closing in on his return to first team football, following two months out-of-action. Axel Tuanzebe, Henri Lansbury, and Orjan Nyland are all out, with James Chester, and Andre Green both being assessed ahead of the game.

Defender Tyrone Mings is also available for the visit of Sheffield United, as he faces no retrospective ban from the incident which occurred with Nelson Oliveira in their goal-less draw with Reading.

When asked about Sheffield United’s squad, Villa manager Smith, responded: “I know a few of their players, I sold him a few centre-halves in Jack O’Connell, and John Egan, so i know them well and i’m not surprised to see them where they are.”

Additionally, it is evident that the main talking point going into this game is, which of the Championship’s top talismans will come out on top, in the battle between Billy Sharp and Tammy Abraham for the Championship’s golden boot?

sharp-5c-20vs-5_36188984

Statistically, Sharp and Abraham are barely separable. Both scoring an outstanding 19 league goals in 24 league starts. The only attributes splitting the two forwards, is Sharp’s clinical nature in front of goal, as 50% of his shots end up in the back of the net, compared to Abraham’s 30.3%.

Although, the Chelsea loanee dominates Sharp on aerial duels won per 90 minutes, proving his height and aerial awareness is much more impressive than the Blades’ skipper.

Match facts

Sheffield United have scored five goals in their last three away games, whilst Villa haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last six home league ties.

Billy Sharp has scored six out of his last 10 shots in the league for Sheffield United.

In Tammy Abraham’s last seven home appearances, he has managed 12 league goals for Villa.

Irish forward David McGoldrick has been involved in seven goals in his last six Championship starts (5 goals, 2 assists).

 

 

post

Sharp shines again, as United lace pressure on the top two

Sheffield United boosted their automatic promotion hopes with an effortless win over relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers. 

Chris Wilder’s side as predicted dominated the first half, and we’re unlucky not to take a first half lead. Scottish midfielder John Fleck was denied in the 41st minute, as Bolton’s Gary O’Neil managed to get a last-ditch touch on the ball to send it for a corner.

However, David McGoldrick managed to put the Blades ahead, connecting onto a low-cross from his strike partner Billy Sharp, following a great showing of pace and strength from the skipper. Moments later, the Wanderers came very close to an equaliser but forward Sammy Ameobi was unable to convert Jason Lowe’s whipped cross.

Captain Sharp then went on to secure the three points for his side, with a close-range header following a set-piece situation, which was finely swung into the six-yard box by Ollie Norwood.

Phil Parkinson’s side may have had to leave Bramall Lane empty handed, but an admirable defensive display in front of immense pressure from the Blades, will surely give them some positives to take away.

The opener from McGoldrick was his fifth goal in his last seven appearances for United, his 11th for the season. Whilst, Sharp netted his 19th league goal of the campaign, making them the joint-most prolific strike-pairing in the division, tied on goals with West Brom’s Dwight Gayle, and Jay Rodriguez.

The three points temporarily placed Chris Wilder’s team into second place, although have recently slipped back down to third due to Norwich’s victory at Elland Road. Despite this, United still sit in a fantastic position, only three points behind both Norwich and Leeds with a positive goal difference over their rivals.

Analysing United’s style of play during the game, they again succeeded at controlling and dictating the play for a high percentage of the match, whilst using their natural fitness and short passing ability to wear down Bolton’s aging defence. Their high defensive-line and constant pressure system, also allowed them to dispose Bolton of possession in their own half, proceeding to an instant counter-attack.

sufc-5c-20passi_36038130 (2)

The high amount of passes completed from United’s back three of John Egan, Jack O’Connell, and Chris Basham, also shows how the Blades dominated possession deep. Using their central defenders to hold possession and command the rhythm of the game, before space opened up in the final third.

Additionally, it can’t be ignored how successful Wilder’s side were at creating goal scoring opportunities from set-pieces. Not only, did Sharp’s headed finish come from a Norwood set-piece, but United won 13 corners through the duration of the game, developing several clear-cut chances as a result.

Furthermore in a game which ended 2-0, United only managed two shots on-target all game, which may seem low considering the amount of possession they had throughout the game. Admitting, this also shows the clinicalness of Wilder’s frontline, with Sharp making a career out of making the most out of few chances.

new-5c-20visual_36039329.pngAgainst Bolton, Sharp had fewer touches of the ball than any other Blades player that started the game, but still managed to bag a goal, an assist, and unleash four key passes. Enhancing a classic fox in the box, Sharp proved his ability to control the action, without even touching the ball, solely through his physical presence and movement in the opposition’s half.

Indicating contrast, Sharp didn’t just show his confidence in-front of goal, but also his composure to cut through a defence with his passing ability, as shown with his assist for McGoldrick’s opener.

Conclusively, following this impressive home display the Blades must now prepare for a trip to Villa Park on Friday, as they take out Dean Smith’s out-of-form Aston Villa.

post

Swansea City vs Sheff Utd: Past five meetings

With Sheffield United looking to build on their fantastic current league form, they travel to the Liberty Stadium to take on Graham Potter’s Swansea City, in a bid to obtain their fifth consecutive league victory.

But how have the Blades fared against the Welsh club in recent history?

Here, we take a look at the two clubs previous five meetings:

Swansea 2 SUFC 1, Championship, 26 Sep 2009

Very early into the 2009/10 Championship campaign, Kevin Blackwell’s side were seeking to build on their healthy start to the season, as they stepped into this fixture sitting sixth in the table after nine games.

The Swans’ Lee Trundle began the scoring, tucking away from the penalty spot on the 52nd minute, after being fouled by Nick Montgomery.

United levelled 21 minutes later, as James Harper’s driven shot was put into the net by Stephen Quinn’s back heel, shortly before Jordi Lopez saw red for Swansea.

Unfortunately for Blackwell, out of nothing Tom Butler delivered a spectacular 25-yard effort past Paddy Kenny, only eight minutes after the equaliser. Soon after, Nathan Dyer’s second yellow card reduced the Swans’ to nine men, however Paulo Sousa’s side were able to hold out for their first league win in five fixtures.

SUFC 2 Swansea 0, Championship, 24 April 2010

At different ends of the table opposed to their previous meeting at the Liberty Stadium, the Blades’ Playoff hopes were over with two games to play, whilst Swansea were placed just inside the top-six, with Blackpool sat closely behind.

Early in the second half Richard Creswell put a dint in Swansea’s Playoff dreams, as he hooked Mark Yeates’ lay off into the top-right corner.

In the 90th minute, Creswell added to his tally, after good work inside the box before firing the ball under Doris De Vries. A goal which was later deemed a De Vries own goal by the English Football League.

This defeat for Swansea at Bramall Lane, saw them slip out of the Championship’s top six for the first time since December.

SUFC 1 Swansea 0, Championship, 18 December 2010

Following Gary Speed’s departure as first team manager to take over as the Wales National Team boss, John Carver was appointed caretaker manager, with his first test against Swansea at Bramall Lane.

An overall poor afternoon for the visitors was illuminated by a moment of quality by the Blades, as they took the lead a minute before the break. Carver was given an immediate boost, as Ched Evans timed his run perfectly, latching his right foot to Andy Reid’s over the top ball.

Swansea had a few sights of goal with the best chances falling to English forward Scott Sinclair. Although, Brendan Rodgers’ team lacked the clinicalness in front of goal, inevitably gifting the home side three points.

Swansea 4 SUFC 0, Championship, 7 May 2011

A day which still haunts all Blades fan alike, as Swansea hammered the already relegated Sheffield United to clinch third place, and book themselves a play-off meeting against Nottingham Forest.

Stephen Dobbie opened the scoring with a sweetly struck free-kick from a tight angle after Matthew Lowton fouled Scott Sinclair just outside the penalty area.

Sinclair doubled the hosts’ lead from the spot, after Shane Lowry was shown a red card for handling the forward’s shot on the goal line.

Dobbie struck again from the edge of the box, while Leon Britton grabbed a late fourth, ending the nightmare performance from United.

SUFC 1 Swansea 2, Championship, 4 August 2018

For those who weren’t able to attend this current season’s opener at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United looked to kick start their campaign with a victory as they welcomed recently relegated Swansea City.

Chris Wilder’s side began brightly and should have taken the lead after 20 minutes, as Lee Evans’ curling effort just evaded the far post. Swansea were cautious and looked to hit the hosts on the counter, but rarely threatened Dean Henderson between the sticks.

In 62nd minute, the Blades had their dream start to the campaign, as George Baldock latched onto a whipped cross from Enda Stevens. However, their lead would only last nine minutes, as Oli McBurnie smashed home a rebound attempt.

Substitute Jefferson Montero proved to be the real difference late into the game. Terrorising the Blades defence, he teed up a perfect cross into new signing Yan Dhanda, who had the perfect finishing touch to fire Swansea to an opening day victory.