KEVIN McCABE appears to have scaled back his ambition for Sheffield United, saying that he HOPES the club reach the Premier League in FIVE years.
That will come as a shock to many Blades fans who have some expectation a return to the top flight will happen before 2022. To others, given that United have just escaped six years in League One, it may seem a reasonable timescale.
“We've made a very good start,” said McCabe of his club's re-entry into the Championship. Had they beaten Norwich City at Bramall Lane last week the Blades would have been top of the table after eight matches.
“My hope is that in five years' time we'll be back in the Premier League. We should never have been relegated if you cast your mind back,” a reference to the Carlos Tevez scandal which enabled West Ham to survive on the final day of the 2006-07 season after he scored their winner at Manchester United even though ineligible to play. “The sole aim is to get back to where we should still be and that's the Premier League."
He added: "The supporter base is very, very big, the club has got all the facilities, we've got a top-class manager. But you still need that wee bit of luck in sport that can win you important games.”
After winning the League One title McCabe pledged he would ensure United “would be competitive” this season. That was widely interpreted as challenging for a play-off place. Now it appears it was more akin to establishing themselves in the Championship. In 2006 after United clinched promotion to the Premier League the Blades chief famously pledged that European football was the target within five years.
McCabe’s latest comments come only a fortnight after his sons, Scott and Simon, resigned from the board at Bramall Lane in what looks very much like preparation for the family to take a step back. In a statement their father emphasised that partner, Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud who bought a 50 per cent share of the club for £1 four years ago, was ready to become more involved.
Pointedly, McCabe included a reminder that the Saudi royal’s purchase was on condition that he made significant investment. Something which has yet to materialise.
“It is to be remembered,” said McCabe, “that a key reason in Prince Abdullah joining us four years ago was not only his clear belief in the Blades potential to succeed and grow as a business, but also as a result of the McCabe Family providing a 50% interest in BLL (Blades Leisure Limited), concurrent to him committing new capital required to aid our joint aim of getting the Blades back into the top echelons of English football.”
McCabe, told Insider, a business media organisation: "I'm a supporter and always have been. I've been at the helm for 20 year so I'm not here forever but I'll be a supporter until I pop my clogs."
Fleck signs four-year deal
United central midfielder John Fleck has secured his future at the Lane until 2021 after signing a new four-year deal.
Manager Chris Wilder who no doubt plans to be in the Premier League one way or another before 2022, views the Scot as key to his blueprint going forward. “John came in on a free transfer and was a major part of our success last season,” said Wilder. “He has settled back into the Championship and we’re delighted that he sees his long-term future here with us.
“I’ve said previously that John is one that can grow as the club grows and we’re delighted with the partnership he has struck up with Paul Coutts in the middle of the park. He’s at a fantastic age, 26, and by getting him tied down we should have him during the best years of his career.”
Fleck arrived at the Lane on a free transfer from Coventry City after Wilder replaced Nigel Adkins in 2016. He said: “The gaffer spoke to me last week and it’s happened from there really. I’ve settled well here and it was an easy decision to make.”
Beamback from Forest
United’s Championship trip to Nottingham Forest on September 30 is to be shown live at Bramall Lane. Two-thousand tickets for the match quickly sold out but now more fans will be able to watch via a beamback from the City Ground on a large screen set up on the pitch in front of the John Street stand. Two thousand tickets are available costing £7 (£3 concession) if bought in advance.