IT MAY have escaped your attention but Sheffield United co-owners Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kevin McCabe were in town. I only mention it because 48 hours on from the scheduled visit Sheffield’s media has yet to mention it.
So much has happened since early May when United were beaten by Swindon in the League One play-off semi-finals and so many questions remain to be answered. Here was a golden opportunity to ask them.
But no. We have to be content with United media manager Kevin Cookson’s insightful probing in a video interview – and I use the word interview loosely – published on the Blades website which went like this.
- “Prince Abdullah, are you liking the improvements that’s going on at Bramall Lane this summer?
- “You obviously keep tabs on the team’s progress from afar.”
- “No doubt you keep in touch with Kevin (McCabe) about all aspects of the business.”
Gripping and enlightening stuff only one of which was a question, of sorts. No wonder Saudi-based Prince Abdullah is a rare visitor to the Lane when he risks facing an interrogation like that. Maybe Cookson would do better with Brussels-based McCabe who he knows a great deal better.
- “With all the progress that’s been made I suppose you can’t wait for the season to start as well, Kevin?”
Oh dear. That was your lot. No-one would expect United’s PR man to put Prince Abdullah or McCabe on the spot. But really, what was the point? More importantly, where were the city’s news-hungry media hounds?
Imagine if the Glazier family descended on Old Trafford for the day; Liverpool owner John W.Henry and members of his Fenway Sports Group jetted from America to Merseyside; or Randy Lerner left his base in the Hamptons, New York State to spend an afternoon at Aston Villa.
Only in Sheffield could a visit from the two most powerful men at one of the city’s football clubs which has undergone a major transformation in recent weeks, go unnoticed. McCabe and Prince Abdullah, after recovering their composure following Cookson’s ruthless grilling, met manager Nigel Adkins for discussions on pre-season progress and future plans. Adkins had flagged up the meeting when he spoke to supporters last week during a Meet the Manager event at the Lane.
So an opportunity missed. It would have been nice to hear from the horses’ mouths, for example, to what extent the financial backing is for new boss Adkins. Are they prepared to ensure that he has a squad capable of winning automatic promotion in place by the end of the current transfer window in August? Will extra funds be available to bolster the squad in January if needed?
United make a point about investment in youth and the importance of the Academy. Are they prepared to change the culture of being a selling club? Resist the temptation, as in the past, to profit on emerging talent such as Louis Reed should clubs come calling with their cheque books?
The stated ambition is promotion and the seeds of expectation have been sown by the club’s management that it is finally going to happen. Is their an exit strategy in place? If the club return to the Championship would that be looked upon initially as a period of consolidation or do the club harbour bigger plans?
What we do know from co-chairman Jim Phipps’ tweets, is that there have been “productive meetings with new layers arriving to make us strong enough for promotion.” He added: “The meetings were excellent, the thought processes excellent and the plans clear. Now to execute.”
New layers or should that have read ‘players’? What exactly is the “clear plan”. We don’t know, of course, because, other than ‘Scoop Cookson’ there was nobody around to ask.
Prince Abdullah, the Saudi government’s General President of Youth Welfare, and members of his family, apart from visiting the Lane, were accompanied by McCabe to the training ground at Shirecliffe. The Prince said: “I love it [Bramall Lane]. It’s always beautiful and now it’s more beautiful.”
He added: “I feel good about our chances this year. Hopefully it will be our last season in League One.” Prince Abdullah spoke affectionately about his co-owner and suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that if United reach the Premier League that he may move to Sheffield. McCabe said: “We’re both Blades, we’re good friends.”
McCabe clearly has confidence in his eighth managerial appointment in as many years. He said: “I think we’ve got the cream of the crop.” On United’s prospects he added: “We’ve got the support, now we’ve just got to do it.”