ALEX REVELL’S decision to turn down Sheffield United in favour of League One newcomers Northampton Town was met with dismay by some Blades fans.
But not this one. In the parlance of air traffic control it should be regarded as a near miss. The idea that a 32-year-old journeyman striker who has seen better days and regards small town club Northampton a better prospect than United is, on the face it, disconcerting. Some would say embarrassing. It's also cobblers.
There is nothing to suggest that Revell would have been anything but a bit-part addition to the squad. God knows United have provided a comfortable home for too many of those.
In a career spanning 16 years Revell has only managed double figures in three of them. The highlight was at Rotherham United where he scored 28 goals in 149 league appearances.
Since leaving the Millers for Cardiff in January 2015, the striker has found the back of the net eight times in all competitions, been loaned to Wigan and joined MK Dons in February who were relegated to League One.
In a career now spanning 12 clubs it takes Revell an average of just under six appearances to score. To put that in perspective it’s marginally better than former Blade loanee Conor Sammon but almost twice as poor as another ex-Lane flop Michael Higdon.
Quite what new Blades boss Chris Wilder was thinking is anyone’s guess. He has made public his wish to sign a target man to complement the strikeforce already at his disposal. But Revell?
United can do better than that. Wilder’s first month in charge has gone well. The forward’s decision to snub the Blades might just have prevented the manager from making his first mistake.
JOHN BRAYFORD’S return from the summer break is likely to be a little more uncomfortable than he might be expecting.
That is if boss Chris Wilder’s tough stance is the measure. Value for money is the buzz phrase at the Lane these days and given the size of Brayford’s contract, he’s got a great deal to deliver.
Wilder recognises too, that, injury aside, the defender’s performances have not lived up to expectation since signing an eye-watering £1.5million deal in January 2015.
“Whatever type of management I have got to impose on John, whether he needs a rocket, whether he needs an arm around we'll have to assess that,” said Wilder. The defender is almost certainly the highest paid player by far at Bramall Lane with only Billy Sharp and unwanted Dean Hammond on anywhere near a contract the like of which is now viewed as profligate at the Lane.
He was former manager Nigel Clough’s poster boy who also signed him at Burton and Derby. Joining in January 2015 from Championship Cardiff it was an extraordinary sum for a right-back position already adequately covered.
Not only that but the ex-boss, along with former managing director Mal Brannigan, who was also at Derby with Clough, offered Brayford a three-and-a-half-year deal. Which means United remain tied to him and his salary until summer 2018. It certainly does pay to have friends in high places.
Unlike many of Clough’s recruits and those of his successor Nigel Adkins, Brayford is a quality player. Too good for League One. Something which Wilder recognises. But the manager also wants his money's worth given the size of the player’s now dinosaur deal.
Clough, in particular, placed Brayford on a pedestal. He could do no wrong. Adkins was in awe as well. Both despite the fact that the defender, injury problems accepted, has never achieved close to the level of performance which impressed during a previous loan period.
That appears about to change. “I saw that same player in that (loan) period when he was outstanding,” said Blades fan Wilder who has, it is clear, spent a good deal of his leisure time watching the club he supports and used to play for. “Maybe John has had a little bit of a dip. In my opinion we will have the best two fullbacks [Chris Hussey, signed from Bury being the other one] in the division. Both of them can go forward and create and both of them can defend.
“For us it's a challenge to get John back up to the heights he was. If it happens John is going to be a big player for us this year.”
DEAN HAMMOND will cut a lonely figure at United’s Shirecliffe training ground if he doesn’t find a new club as will the other six players put on the transfer list.
Manager Chris Wilder has made it clear there is no place for the midfielder, signed on loan by ex-boss Adkins on loan from Leicester with the option of a 12-month contract at the end of it. Yet another reason, maybe, why MD Mal Brannigan was shown the door just before Christmas.
“I was surprised because that contract is heavily weighted in the players favour,” said Wilder who suggested that the club may striker a deal to buy out the contract. “I can't lose too much sleep about it. Hopefully the situation will be resolved between Dean, the Board and his agent.” Strange, isn’t it, that a player United fans disliked in abundance for his poor contribution, was constantly praised by Adkins who had previously signed the 33-year-old at Southampton. What is it about the last two United managers recruiting pet projects and recommending incredibly generous deals? Is it a pay-off with someone else’s money for past favours? Surely not because that would be corrupt practice, wouldn’t it?
Hammond, of course, believed to have banked £17,000 a week during his season-long loan spell, is within his rights to demand another 12 months' salary. Hopefully, but don’t bet on it, for a vastly reduced sum.
The chances of United offloading him, however, don’t look great given that straight-talking Wilder’s reference is not of the type designed to impress potential employers.
“His style just doesn't suit the way I want our midfield players to play,” said Wilder. “To go and press, to go after the ball and get higher up the pitch and be positive in their passing. Dean has a different style to what I am looking for.”
That sounds very much like code for useless.
MARC McNULTY has every chance of restarting a United career brought to a shuddering halt by Nigel Adkins.
Current boss Chris Wilder is expecting the 23-year-old Scot, United’s joint top scorer in his first season with the Blades before being inexplicably exiled to Portsmouth on loan, to prove he is worthy of being a major part of his plans.
“He's a goalscorer. You want them that your football club and as I have said to George (Long), if Marc wants a guarantee here at this football club he ain't going to get it. He's got to work hard. We want to look at him in pre-season. I saw quite a bit of him for Portsmouth last season. He and (Caolan) Lavery upfront for a period were the best in the division.
“It's up to him to the ground running and if he does we've got a really good player at a good age who can score goals. They're priceless.”