UPDATE: Only hours after publication of this post David Brooks and his agent agreed terms with Premier League Bournemouth. A deal reported to be worth an initial £12million to United with a possible further £3m in add-ons as well as a sell-on clause.
SHEFFIELD UNITED is not a selling club. Yes, that old chestnut.
When co-owner Kevin McCabe uttered those words in early 2016 it was met with derision by Blades fans of all ages who have known nothing else.
McCabe made a bold statement. The latest suggestion to aid headline writers was more nuanced and came surprisingly this week from non other than Chris Wilder.
The manager has made precious few bloopers as he enters his third year in charge at Bramall Lane and is as grounded a character as you could ever wish to meet. But on this particular issue he must have had a little too much sun and sangria during the holiday break.
“As far as I’m concerned everyone here now is boxed-off other than those we’ve made available,” he said. “We want to push forward and improve the group we’ve already got. We’re not looking to lose anyone other than the people I’ve already mentioned.”
So far so good.
“I’m not daft or stupid. If silly money starts being banded around for someone, then it might be something we’ve got to look at. But it’s about bringing the power back to the football club and that’s what I think we’re doing. That’s why it would take silly money because we don’t have to move anyone on we don’t want [to].”
That someone is of course David Brooks and Wilder may talk of power but the reality is United lack what would really make the difference – will-power.
Contrary to Wilder’s claim, most onlookers with even a limited knowledge of how United tick, would be surprised if it took ‘silly money’ to prize the talented midfielder, shortly to turn 21, away. An offer close to his considerable worth coupled with a lucrative sell-on clause will most likely do the trick. Wilder may not want to accept that but it is something McCabe and Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, pitted against each other for full control of the club, will almost certainly agree on.
Otherwise Wilder would be on reasonably safe ground with his statement of intent for the time being. The remainder of his current squad are never going to put his theory to the test. All honest, hardworkers including one or two who have may have peaked but still have something to offer. None off them big money targets let alone of the ‘silly’ kind.
Few Blades fans expect Brooks, one of the most exciting young talents in English football, to be still wearing a red and white-striped shirt when the inaugural early transfer deadline for permanent deals passes on August 9. Neither one suspects does the manager.
Would anything between £8million and £12m, possibly more, be regarded as ‘silly money’ in today’s market for the the young Wales international? Surely not. Would United turn such an offer down? No, not unless they broke the habit of a lifetime.
- CLAYTON DONALDSON, 34, a free agent after his 12-month contract wasn't renewed at Bramall Lane, has joined Bolton. The striker made 29 appearances and scored five goals for United,.
- JAMES HANSON has signed for AFC Wimbledon after he and United reached a settlement for the two years remaining on his three-and-a-half year contract. The 30-year-old transfer-listed striker signed from Bradford in January 2017 but was loaned to Bury after the Blades won promotion to the Championship. He made 14 league appearances for United scoring once, on his debut against the Dons.
History suggests they would succumb even if the sum was lower. That really would be silly money for someone of Brooks’ talent. But selling the family silver has never presented a problem before.
Remember this is a club which agreed to send Tony Currie packing to Manchester United in the 1970s. A deal that didn’t go through only because the England international, voted the greatest player to have ever worn a Blades shirt, didn’t want to leave Bramall Lane.
Not forgetting the sale of top scorers Brian Deane and Jan Age Fjortoft on the same day in January 1998 with United fifth in League One [now Championship]. Their enforced departures led to the resignation of Nigel Spackman, the former Blades player who was developing into a promising young manager, plunging the club into deeper crisis.
Different eras, different management and certainly in the case of Deane and Fjortoft different financial circumstances. But on the record and very much in keeping all the same.
There is a valid argument that selling Brooks is an inevitable fact and would be beneficial. On the proviso that his sizeable fee is ploughed straight back into first team development to seriously strengthen Wilder’s hand as he seeks out quality signings and fills gaps which ultimately cost a play-off place last season.
Given that only a few weeks ago he had to issue a quit threat in order, amongst other managerial issues, to secure what now appears to be a modestly improved budget but offering a fighting chance of attracting such players, expectation of a cash windfall from Brooks’ sale being handed back is unlikely.
What happened to the unexpected £4.5m bonus received last summer from the sell-on fee in Kyle Walker’s £54m move from Tottenham to Manchester City? Probably used to offset overheads. We know for a fact, unless told otherwise, that Wilder didn’t see any of it.
United returned to the Championship last season with a meagre budget now accepted as being unfit for purpose for a club harbouring serious aspirations. Wilder warned as much before the season kicked off.
“The ambitions lie with the owners and I’m not chucking anybody under the bus there. It’s obvious,” he said. Adding: “We know we’re short on possibly two or three players, I’ve made that perfectly clear to the owners.”
As for Brooks himself, the signs indicate that he is preparing to move on and make the step up after changing his agent last month. He has joined the stable of Unique Sports Management who act for Tottenham and England World Cup captain Harry Kane and Fulham’s 18-year-old hot property Ryan Sessegnon.
The latter operates as an attacking left-back or on either wing and scored 16 goals for the Cottagers on the way to the Premier League via the play-off final. He is tipped to join a bigger club even though he has just played a huge role in Fulham’s promotion. Something that will not be lost on Brooks.
Fulham owner Shahid Khan has other ideas, accepting that the Championship Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year may sign for another club – Tottenham and Manchester United are reported to be leading contenders – but then loaned back.
“If a club pays a ridiculous fee for Sessegnon he's not going to be breaking into their starting XI so he will be at Fulham next year,” said an over-confident sounding Khan. A similar arrangement which would also be ideal for United concerning Brooks, akin to the deal struck with Tottenham following Walker’s switch to Spurs in 2009. A £9m move which also included Kyle Norton who remained at White Hart Lane.
Brooks’ many admirers include Bournemouth and Tottenham as well as interest from abroad, particularly the German Bundesliga. He has been frustrated at the Lane even after Wilder and his staff realised the error of their ways of initially planning to let him spend a loan spell at Chesterfield in League Two as part of the agreement to sign Ched Evans.
Since then, such is Brooks’ value, he has signed an improved contract until June 2021 as United insure themselves against inevitable predators to maximise profit potential.
Last season was interrupted by a lengthy absence due to glandular fever which may have worked in United’s favour as it coincided with the January transfer window. But despite Brooks being by far the most talented individual at Wilder’s disposal, of his 30 league appearances for the Blades to date, 21 have been from the bench. He has to wait until United’s eighth league fixture of the season to make his league debut.
Early summer is traditionally known in media circles as the ‘silly season’. A time when the regular news cycle is suspended and a concerted search for ‘alternative’ news stories begins.
This appears to be one of them. United not a selling club? Pull the other one.