KEVIN McCABE broke the club’s silence at the weekend to issue a statement and then launch an impassioned defence of himself, Sheffield United’s joint ownership, their appointments to the Board and pledge support for manager Nigel Adkins. But what does it all really mean?
- He revealed that co-owner Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s ‘game-changing’ investment will not happen until United are in the Championship.
- Backed manager Nigel Adkins as the man who can still deliver promotion this season but was reluctant to give a guarantee that he will still be at Bramall Lane should United remain in League One.
- Claimed Sheffield United was not a selling club.
- Said the £1.7million fee paid by Brighton for Jamie Murphy has been spent on wages.
- Agreed he was disappointed by the club’s failure so far this season to establish themselves as promotion contenders.
- Admitted too many mistakes signing players who are not good enough was reason why there were no arrivals in January transfer window. The quality needed was not available to improve a squad which is already far too big.
- Spent too much money on players and failed to sign the right ones to create a promotion-winning blend. Interestingly, that appeared to encompass some of Adkins’ additions as McCabe was keen to stress that it was “not just this season” but for the last three seasons as well.
- Eight managerial appointments in as many years were all “sound judgments”. Some of them created their own problems which impacted on team performances.
- Despite those “sound judgments” a combination of bad luck and, confusingly, poor managerial choices is the reason why United, since the heady days of the Premier League in 2006, are where they are now.
- Claimed “throwing money” at managers had put a pressure on them to spend it, resulting in poor recruitment.
- Revealed that he expects United to lose £8million this season, the same amount as he and Prince Abdullah have invested in the current campaign.
- No fall-out between him and Prince Abdullah who have stumped up a total of £90m and £15m respectively.
- Board appointments have plenty of football experience.
- Doesn’t want to sell his share of the club despite issuing an open invitation to anyone with the right credentials and a credible plan to get in touch.
- In a separate interview he admitted he had been wrong to sack former manager Danny Wilson.
The admission that Prince Abdullah, a member of the Saudi Royal family who bought 50 per cent of the club from McCabe in 2013 for £1, won't make his so-called 'game-changing' investment until the Blades are promoted will come as a shock to all Blades fans.
The Saudi Prince’s arrival at the Lane was trumpeted as a ‘game-changer’ by McCabe but until now it was never made clear that it hinged on first winning Championship status.
McCabe said: “It’s been planned to be the case. It hasn’t been the case and I ask you to recognise we’ve got pretty close to the ‘game-changer’ because that comes with a first promotion back to the Championship.”
He confirmed: “My family have put about £90million into Sheffield United but that obviously is over a very long period. My partner, Prince Abdullah, who's a wonderful guy, whose just as frustrated as any supporter is, he’s put in £15m so far. During this season both of us have put in £8m in total.”
Co-chairman and the Prince’s principle advisor, Jim Phipps, said in a television interview in November the figure was £13m. McCabe also revealed that he expects United to lose £8m from this campaign.
He spoke glowingly of manager Adkins, believing he can deliver promotion. But when pressed as to whether Adkins would still be in place next season if United are in League One, McCabe chose his words carefully. “Look, we appointed Nigel, top class man with the right credentials to bring the success we want, not just to get us back to the Championship but hopefully to the Premiership,” he said. “The support we’ve given to Nigel continues. Yes I believe in Nigel.
Quizzed as to what that would mean if the Blades fail to win promotion, McCabe continued: “I’m saying I believe in Nigel. Nigel’s here with the task of getting us promotion this season and beyond.”
But challenged further, McCabe said confusingly: “Well look, things happen in any sport, football or business generally. I expect Nigel to be with us next season without any shadow of a doubt yes.”
McCabe sprung another surprise, revealing that the £1.7m transfer fee which Brighton paid for Jamie Murphy early in the season had been spent on wages. The club’s original position was it would be used to strengthen the squad.
“Of course it’s been spent,” said McCabe. “Our wage bill if it is not the highest in League One it’s second only to Wigan.”
In a sentence which appeared contradictory, McCabe said: “We’re not a self-sustainable club. We’re not a selling club.” By way of explanation he added: “We do not sell players unless players wish to go. If Harry (Maguire), if Jamie Murphy want to go we are a League One club we can’t stop it.” Which would seem to suggest that like it or not, United are a selling club.
Referring to the January transfer window when Adkins made public his intention to strengthen the squad but didn’t make one addition, McCabe said: “We didn’t sign anyone because we couldn’t find the people we wanted to sign. That wasn’t for the lack of effort. Neither is it for lack of effort now on bringing on loan players.
“It’s a matter of deciding whoever we bring in as a permanent or loan player to Sheffield United has a value that will add to the strength of the first team. I think we have made too many mistakes in past seasons signing players who have not been probably as good as we would wish. So why repeat errors?”
McCabe also appeared to include some of Adkins additions to the squad in a catalogue of players signed during the last three years who haven’t lived up to expectation. Which by inference points to the entire squad Adkins is having to work with now and begs the question why wasn’t this resolved in the summer?
Asked if the manager were to recommend the signing of a player would he be able to proceed, MCabe answered: “I think the straight forward answer to that is ‘yes’. If there is a belief from our team manager that we can get players on board that will make the difference.
“But what we don’t want to do is to make the problems from having players who have come over the last few seasons, not just this season I may say, I do stress that, the last few seasons, which means we end up with too many players, too big a squad that doesn’t perform as we would wish it to perform.”
While admitting that “poor managerial choices” had been made which led to the appointment of eight in as many years, McCabe also claimed that all had been based on sound judgments. Effectively shifting blame to the individuals themselves rather than sharing it with those who opted for them in the first place.
“All the managers have been chosen with good reasoned judgment,” he said. “There have been issues that have occurred with some of the managers that have created pressures where maybe the performance of the team didn’t work as they wished it to work and we’ve failed to achieve.
“So there have been reasons behind all the managers. They’ve not been just willy-nilly choices or willy-nilly dismissals and in Nigel we’ve got the top class man to do it for us.” But in a separate interview he said he regretted having sacked Danny Wilson.
Bizarrely, McCabe claimed that “throwing” money at various managers had contributed to the club’s failures. He said: “Firstly, ill luck. But I will not go into saying too much about that. Secondly, we’ve tried too hard at throwing money, you know managers have come in the knowledge that they have got money available and recruitment has not been successful for us.
PRESSURE TO SPEND
“The benefit of having money to spend, possibly because we’re in League One has meant its put pressure on manager’s to spend money and the recruitments that we’ve got at the moment aren’t achieving it for the club. When I say at the moment I’m also going back the last three seasons. “
ViewFromTheJohnStreet.Com reported last week, based on a reliable source from inside the club, that the relationship between club owners had cooled. McCabe was said to be concerned that Prince Abdullah’s enthusiasm was waning and feared the financial burden if he were to quit.
McCabe, however, denied this. “There’s no fall-out between Prince Abdullah and myself. None whatsoever. No fall-out, no drama.”
He also rubbished claims that those businessmen appointed to the Board in the December shake-up which saw the sudden departure of managing director Mal Brannigan, didn’t have enough football experience. “Of course they do,” he said. “Any notion about no football experience is a piece of nonsense.”
A mixed message appeared in McCabe’s official statement, released before his round of interviews, when he invited anyone interested in buying his share of club to come forward. But quizzed if this was because he wanted a way out, the United co-owner insisted: “Not at all, no.”
He did, however, seem to be confusing general criticism from concerned fans, many of whom struggle to pay the admission price, with that of a challenge to buy him out.
He continued: “But if supporters have this continual criticism and I don’t freely give interviews all the time, it’s not my style, come forward. I’m quite an easy guy to talk to, aren’t I?”
“I’m not trying to walk away but if there are supporters who have got credentials and want to come and talk to me, not just idly but with proposals, come and talk.”