IF ANYONE needs further evidence of the belt-tightening that has taken place at Bramall Lane, look no further than Kyle McFadzean’s move to Burton Albion.
It’s evident that you are in a brave new world when a club with severely limited resources and small fan base outbid you in the transfer market. Indeed, appear to be a more attractive proposition. Especially so when the player concerned is a Sheffield-born Blades fan who began his career at the club and was anticipating a return to his spiritual home.
Kyle McFadzean's 22-year-old brother, Callum, released by United manager Chris Wilder, starts the new season with Scottish Premier League Kilmarnock where he signed a three-year contract. Killie are managed by former Huddersfield, Birmingham and Blackpool boss Lee Clark.
United are reported to have offered £250,000 for the central defender. MK Dons, just relegated to League One, valued him at twice that. Blades manager Chris Wilder was hopeful a compromise could be reached even though MK boss Karl Robinson was reluctant to sell to a League One rival. Then Burton, flexing their newly acquired Championship muscles, intervened this week to set an undisclosed transfer record at the Pirelli Stadium.
With all due respect to the Brewers whose back-to-back promotions from League Two to the second tier of English football is nothing short of remarkable, as much as that represents a giant financial outlay for them it’s anything but in the real world. Not when you consider what McFadzean had to beat. The previous record high was the princely sum of £20,000 paid for Russell Penn, a midfielder now at Carlisle, and striker Billy Kee, currently at Accrington Stanley.
To put it into perspective less than two weeks’ wages for United’s Dean Hammond and at least six times the package recently agreed to buy him out of his contract.
Burton manager and former Blades boss Nigel Clough said of 29-year-old McFadzean: “We have watched him extensively and we think he was the best centre half in League One [Crawley and at MK Dons prior to promotion] and I think he'll be better this time making the step up thanks to his previous experience in the Championship.”
There will inevitably be Blades fans who question what amounts to a penny-pinching exercise which has only served to deny United a key player in their bid to win promotion.
Especially so as four of Wilder’s signings to date – James Wilson, Jake Wright, Mark Duffy and John Fleck – have cost nothing. United paid Bury a “nominal fee” for Chris Hussey. Only Jack O’Connell, the defender who had two years of his contract remaining at Brentford, has commanded any serious outlay, although that sum is undisclosed.
Much will depend on the outcome of Wilder’s efforts to stem the regular flow of costly defensive errors which have dogged United for the last two seasons. He has already added central defenders Wilson and Wright to his squad along with O'Connell.
Nevertheless, critics of United’s failure to secure McFadzean, identified by the manager as a top target, make a valid point. One that could return to haunt United’s bean counters should Clough be proved correct.