United Season Review & School Report 20-21 - Part Two Board/Club

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Deadbat

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Staff report



Board / Club



Prince HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
and his UTB group now are firmly ensconced as the owners absolute now. It seemed when he won the court case and events after in terms of investment in the playing squad and plans for the training ground and also the ground, that most fans were happy with how they were running things. After all we had finished 9th in the Premier League last season. Maybe over the summer doubts started to creep in about how much financial muscle the Prince had. It has seemed clear though that from the detailed notes on the court case that saw him wrestle control, that he maybe never had the finances that we thought when he got involved.



Indeed, a rundown of all the owners and their respective financial worth (these lists are guesswork in most cases but do carry some weight) showed him right near the bottom. Some lists had him in 20th place but most 19th at best – with the 18th and 17th place owners supposedly with net worth of 400-500 million in comparison to Abdullah’s 200 million. Granted these are guesswork but shows the reality is that in terms of expenditure he would never be able to spend stupid amounts both on transfer fees but more than that the wage bill – as that is the area that clearly, we cannot compete. I see a lot of fans and maybe even Wilder taking some stabs at this but we had been in the league one year. We were not going to smash the wage bill with money we do not have. Most of the transfer fees were based on TV money coming in (free money in essence). I am not sure what people expect of him – should we have suddenly made the likes of Cash and Robinson our two highest paid players? Then what happens to the rest, many who we have just agreed new contracts. You would have to up their wages and suddenly we are paying wages we cannot afford. It is a different argument in 2 or 3 years if we had stayed here. Maybe if we had spent more on wages, we maybe would have stayed up and then made more money. It’s hard but I cannot fault the club for the approach really and at the time I think many felt we were making the right moves. We did spend a fair bit still on players and much more than we have ever spent before or I ever felt we would spend before.



We have spent more than quite a few other clubs, even with the wage’s argument thrown in and I get the whole package means we did not spend as much as many. Still, the argument for me is how we spent it. Maybe to get the more established players we needed; we would have to spend more on the wages. I still think we could have signed more experienced players or a different type of player – look at West Ham who signed Bowen/Benrahma but also added some foreign players Soucek/Coufal. Not sure any of these would be ridiculous wages and all were attainable.



I think many were also happy with the window in bringing in two wing backs for competition, a good young goalie and also Brewster – a player many thought we could not get and an exciting young talent. There is the argument we needed another midfielder or two but then the three + Berge and Osborn and Ampadu coming in, you could say we had 6 players in this area and we had done really well last season and the players here had been fine.



As the season started there were some thinking we needed to bring in more quality but it was not the overriding voices and many were happy with the squad after what they had achieved. There was that nagging worry what was behind the first team and so it proved as a bad start coupled with a number of key men injured saw things fall apart spectacularly. After giving Wilder over 50 million to spend on 4 players and arguably none had improved the first team (Ramsdale did improve) with Bogle, Lowe and Brewster barely playing, I can see why Abdullah did not give him any more funds. He was not using the players he had brought in for very decent fees. Wilder may have not been happy but with us almost down, I am not sure even spending a bit of money at this stage would have made any difference and for me rightly the owners had to think of next season. Add in the fact that Wilder had supposedly tried to resign twice, then as he says why would he give him significant funds when he had squandered what he had been given before? There is a strong argument that for all the players brought in hardly one had improved the side that got promoted (maybe Berge) and much of the strongest eleven was the same players. Abdullah was right to question the recruitment and consider changes in terms of the structure. I think any club would do the same and allowing one man to run things only works if he is successful with the recruitment and even Wilder’s biggest fans have to admit since promotion the investment has so far been really poor (some may come good) and we have spent for United a lot of money (granted not on wages as the same argument will come up, I know). I do think some of the Prince’s words about us only going for one target and not proven players were a bit hollow and surely, he would have been questioning Wilder long before this season if this was his approach?



Abdullah rather publicly backed Wilder around Dec/Jan saying he would be here no matter what next season despite us losing every single week. You can argue he should have done it via official circles or even the local press rather than Talk sport but he may argue the local journalists had strongly affiliated themselves to previous ownership (see Biggs, A). I do think Wilder has never firmly embraced the new ownership. I could be wrong – but if I had to say I always had him down as a McCabe man in terms of the noises coming out from Wilder and his friends. I might have misread this. It was nice to see then Wilder with Abdullah in Saudi Arabia and seeing them working together and all the words from them both was they seemed aligned until everything fell apart this year. Wilder clearly did not want to work for a director of football and we do not know how much Van Winkel has been involved but the club seemed to be moving in this direction but were as the Prince put it, prepared to live with the current set up with Wilder running everything as long as we were successful. It was not really built on a plan though and if Wilder left, then what? I think the club were right to think about a more cohesive plan with some structure to scouting, development, everything rather than Wilder and his pals’ approach which had of course been incredibly successful. We would not here without this way we went about things as it fostered the unity and togetherness throughout the club.



We still do not know the events fully of what led to the eventual departure or if Wilder was pushed or walked. We have heard from Abdullah. There were some parts I agreed with although we do not know all the truth of course. I was a bit disappointed with elements of his interview (again oddly done on Sky Sports) in terms of disclosures of certain details (Wilder’s wages/pay off) and not sure it quite gave credit to what Wilder did totally. Without him we would not be here and the Prince would have probably been long gone – would he have contested the ownership if we were still in League One or struggling in the Championship? I think he needs to remember that. I think the Prince had to say something as the poor statement Bettis gave and the piffling summary of Wilder’s exit on the website was not sufficient at all.



It seems that Wilder had tried to resign on a few occasions (the mouthing of ‘I can’t do this anymore’ at the Palace game adds weight to the timeframes maybe) but we are still unsure if it was Wilder who just quit or if the owner actually finally had enough of his outbursts and supposed resignation attempts and just said, ‘Fine, you can go.’ I do agree with elements of Abdullah’s interview in that Wilder would not always take responsibility for things and also that his constant criticism of the players/club and praise for the opposition was not a good look. He was indirectly criticising his owner and boss. I think some owners would have come out and said something long before this and Wilder’s shoot from the hip approach may work at lower league football but now at the top level (where he got us to, I know!) he needs to act more professionally and keep his counsel a bit more. He was effectively throwing his own players under the bus. I think he was playing a risky game when he and the team were performing so badly. I always sensed it may end although hoped Abdullah and Wilder may just get through the season and then sit down and come up with a way forward as still feel Wilder may have been the best man to get us back up and try and build a new side and wat forward. It was not to be and it seems even Wilder’s confidante Bettis may have fallen out with him. It was not helped on social media as Wilder’s friend and Abdullah’s former right-hand man shot barbs back and forth maintain they were ‘their’ views when fans probably felt different. It was not a good luck for a club that had been so United a year ago and for the period before that.



We were then faced with the fall out and some of Wilder’s staff being moved on – it was maybe not helped by Bettis’ mate Jason Tindall coming in too, on the same weekend Wilder left. Social media saw a real storm whipped up by many fans and it became very divided with almost pro Wilder v pro Abdullah. The Prince was subject to a fair bit of over-the-top criticism and at times abuse. I do get many being so appreciative of Wilder and having that loyalty but for weeks many seemed unable to move on as shocking as it was. Some seemed to be more interested in Wilder than SUFC which I was quite surprised about but also showed what he had done for the club. Feelings were running high and the Prince was being openly questioned in terms of his decisions both nationally (the media could not believe we had allowed Wilder to leave with only a few – Simon Jordan – actually defending the decision) and locally with many really batting hard for the local hero. It was all very messy and the ownership were probably glad at this time there were no fans allowed into the Lane as the atmosphere would have been poisonous.



It seems there are a lot of questions over Abdullah now and much of it is for me is down to the fact he will be seen as the owner that oversaw allowing Wilder to leave. Whether he was going to go no matter what, we will never know? Could he have done more to keep him and forgotten the outbursts and attempts to resign and his demands for a huge pay off? Maybe. It just seemed that things had become irreconcilable between both of them.





We then had speculation over the new manager but it seemed rightly the club would take their time. The fact the candidates out there did not particularly stand out. Eddie Howe one candidate seemed to be heading to Celtic but then that stalled but he did not seem a serious candidate for the role– then Slavisa Jokanovic was linked and then apparently not one of the candidates before he was then supposedly interviewed? We had a surprise name that of German, Alexander Blessin was thrown into the mix. The Belgian Clement was mentioned and even a French guy who had been at Montpellier, Michel Der Zakarian. We announced we had 5 in the shortlist including Heckingbottom (who said he did not want the job before!) and this was a point where I thought there is no plan. Wilder had supposedly resigned or tried to resign several times and we had not done any exploratory work at all or had anyone. Some clubs sack and appoint a manager in the same day (we did this with Wilder pretty much after Adkins left). I sensed we had no such candidate or if we did, he/they turned us down or there were work permit issues but the longer it went on the more concerned I became that there was no strategy at all!



As I type this we still have new manager, rumours over Jokanovic being close continue to grow but nothing definite and now with the season done the uncertainty remains.



Off the field there is merits for discussing that we have not really build on the supposed things that Abdullah clearly had earmarked. A year ago, there was talk about possibly improvements to the ground but now other than minimal work to the visual look – any bigger work will surely now be on hold due to Covid and relegation. I am not sure it is a priority. The stadium is fine for size – we did not even fill it some weeks in the top level (granted ticketing policy did not work). The Kop is tired and the facilities here are beyond basic but it is still a better ground than most at Championship level and I think any work here is now not a priority.



You cannot say the same about the training ground / Academy. A year ago, we had rumours of a move to the Norton Aerodrome site as the current Academy is not big enough and for us to attain Category 1 status (more pitches/facilities/accommodation/changing/gym/pool/hydrotherapy etc) then we will have to move from the small and outdated Shirecliffe site which may seem new to some but we have been here for over 20 years now. Again, as with the ground these plans may now be on hold but you would think this should be a priority. Even more than the first team investment or anything else, we need a long-term plan. The days of bringing through the two Kyles, Maguire, Brooks, Calvert Lewin etc seems a long time ago now. There is raw talent there and both age groups have done well but we are playing mostly Champ/League 1 teams in terms of opponents so hard to compare. We seem to have some good lads coming through but it remains to be seen if these are of the level of those I mention above. Recently some off the academy lads have had to train at other venues across the city as we do not have the facilities to cater for everyone. It is also not great the women have to train and play elsewhere (Chesterfield ground). Surely in an ideal world all the clubs would be in the same facility.



The current first team training ground and facilities are not really fit for purpose. We have 2 pitches and then a hut/old working man’s club that has been upgraded but the behind-the-scenes videos show how poor it is. There are some clubs at National League level with better facilities. It is embarrassing how bad it is and new players will surely not be impressed. We were supposed to have a temporary facility with a new two-storey building, comprising of a gym, training area, physiotherapy and hydrotherapy zones, as well as office facilities. The structure was to sit between the two existing buildings, on the perimeter of the current first team training pitches. At the time I type this there has been no action and nothing has happened. Rumours of a leaky roof being fixed being one reason for Wilder not being happy were quashed by the owner but it seems clear that a year later and we are no further forward with the training ground improvements or the academy moving to a bigger and better site to allow us to get the much-needed Category 1 status (every other club in the top flight had it and many in the Championship).



Some cite the Prince extending the United World as being a negative of course and feel that this is funds that could be spent on us. Of course, many fans said the same about McCabe when he made forays abroad. We now have fairly small teams in India, Saudi Arabia, Belgium and now France. The Coulibaly link has been seen as one way we can get the most out of these partnerships but work permits will be an issue due to the level of the clubs Abdullah has acquired. His son-in-law then left as chairman with only ‘personal reasons’ being cited and it all seemed a bit of a mess really from an outsider looking in.



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Deadbat

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The rest of the board with McCabe’s family and associates gone is all from Abdullah’s contingent but even that seems to be in a state of flux with the above news – although of course Bettis and Shieber are there too who maybe were not necessarily part of either group but remain as holdovers. The current board is listed as:





  • Yusuf Giansiracusa (Acting Chairman)
  • Jan Van Winckel
  • H.H. Prince Musa'ad bin Khalid Al Saud (Was Chairman – is he still on the board – I am guessing not?)
  • Princess Reem Bint Abdullah Al Saud (assume she is still on the board)
  • Abdullah Alghamdi




H.H. Prince Musa'ad bin Khalid Al Saud (Chairman)
is of course Abdullah’s son in law. A quick look on Wikipedia and you can find out a bit more about him! He is only 28 which was very young for a Football Chairman but he has packed a lot into his young life. Musa’ad holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with a major in Project Management from Al Faisal University. He speaks Arabic, English, and Italian. In 2010, Musa’ad established a leading football academy focusing on the development of youth players. It was also used as a training facility for other football teams in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and then became the President of the General Sports Authority in Saudi Arabia. In 2016, Musa’ad joined Ernst & Young. He held three positions during his time there: Consultant, Senior Consultant in Strategy & Customer, and EY's Sport & Entertainment Sector Manager at EY MENA Advisory Services. He is also director of K Beerschot VA. This is the club in Belgium which the Prince has ownership in and is quite involved seemingly. Not sure how much he is involved in the other clubs but would guess he has roles. It seems very much his Father-in-law was the de facto owner calls the shots and is the one that is seen and the media go to when wanting a quote or any feelings on events. It was still a shock when mid-April it was announced he had resigned. Whilst very much a figurehead, it was still a shock and just added to the turmoil really around the club. It said personal reasons so we do not know what that means really. It could be anything. He was really young (26) and brought his family over and I saw so much abuse on twitter and online for him and his extended family after Wilder left. Maybe he had just had enough and wanted to go home? Maybe he had fallen out with his Father-In-Law? I do not know. I am merely speculating. but another change and ending the season without a manager or a chairman cannot be a good look for the stability of the club. I am assuming as well as standing down as Chairman he will leave the board also but this was not confirmed as far as I am aware?





Yusuf Giansiracusa
. He seems more of an advisor than a ‘money man’. Specialising in representing clients and commercial and corporate transactions but he was a key man at the court case and often is seen with Abdullah and was also seen before in the meetings with Wilder. He seems like very much a key aide for the Prince. He was seen in some of the pictures when we were looking at the new training ground a year ago. After the Chairman resigned, he was put in the role of the acting chairman so maybe we may hear more from him now. He is a lawyer but does seem very close to Abdullah so seems tied to him and his appointments/businesses and was allegedly involved in discussions around the possible Blessin move.





Jan Van Wincklel
has been here a while now but we don’t actually know what he does still but his name and the supposed role he plays or may play has come into the limelight more due to the reports that we were supposedly looking for a Director of Football. Van Winckel, who holds a UEFA Pro License was a technical expert for FIFA and led the Saudi Arabian football team, as chairman of the technical committee, to the World Cup in Russia. He also held several coaching jobs and was for several years the assistant manager to Marcelo Bielsa at Olympique de Marseille in France. I thought when Wilder went, they may put him in charge but then maybe the Prince knew that would have been a disastrous PR move at that time. He seems to be involved in meetings and conference calls and maybe the Verrips, Berge and the Coulibaly signings he had a role especially them all having Belgian/Dutch links? It will be interesting to see if United do now accelerate to this director of football approach as has been rumoured and if either he would take such an official role or be involved in any appointment. It was often billed that Wilder distrusted him in some sources but not sure what those who said this were basing that one? Maybe it is just because he was supposedly involved in the playing/recruitment side and Wilder wanted to have almost full control of this seemingly. What I found odd was that after Wilder left why was not more involved in day-to-day matters or the managerial search? He seemed like he had at least had football experience and a background/history rather than Bettis and the Prince.



Princess Reem Bint Abdullah Al
Saud
I believe is the chairman’s wife and the Prince’s daughter? We don’t hear much from her or what her role is? Apparently, she is involved with the women’s team but we do not hear anything from her? With her husband stepping down, will she still be involved moving forward?



Abdullah Alghamadi
– works for a company called Amos holdings and is group CEO where Abdullah’s son also has a role. Alghamadi is Group CEO. He is listed also as a Financial and Investment Advisor as well as being a Sheffield United Board member and a Beerschot board member.





The other positions of note include:



Stephen Bettis
came back as chief executive and this seemed an underrated move when Wilder remained last summer as seemed a big fan of Bettis and seems to be an important cog. He seems very much a favourite of Abdullah reading the court case but most importantly Wilder always spoke highly of him and they seemed close both professionally and personally. He seemed a key figure and real conduit between the Prince and the board and the management/playing side. As the season went down, I had no sense of the relationship breaking down between Wilder and him but when he eventually left, there were rumours and report he (Betis) had betrayed him (Wilder). Not sure what the details were or whether this was just more nonsense being spouted on social media. I guess Bettis being the chief executive that was effectively employed by the Prince has to show any loyalties to his boss when there was the clear divide at the end. I think some of Wilder’s friends are very naïve if Bettis is going to take Wilder’s side in any disagreement. Sure, he has supported him and backed him but you will not go against your paymaster. If he felt that strongly that the moves were wrong, then surely like Wilder he could have moved on? He seemed to be the one we heard from in the managerial search more than the Prince. I am not sure what football experience before he came to us and he went from this smooth business talk when we were doing well to a bit of a bumbling executive who seemed out of his depth when things started to decline. He was thrust into the spotlight and things were not going as well and we saw some of his limitations. The press conference and statement he gave was a bit embarrassing around Wilder’s departure. He then talked of this 5-man short list. Not sure why he said this or how accurate this was and then seemed to thrust Heckingbottom forward too? It all seemed like no one really had a clear plan, whether it be him or the Prince and his advisers. The time that elapsed surely proved that?
 

Deadbat

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Dave McCarthy is involved still as Operations Director and we also have Paul Reeves as the head of marketing. Been really hard for these guys and this side of the club to make much money with no actual fans at games and difficulty to gain new sponsors or maintain the same level of income in these areas. These roles have been very hard probably with much of their areas of operation being around match day and the things associated with that.



We got a sponsorship deal with USG which was for three years when we went up and was reported to be the biggest, we have ever had. It seems they are in trouble in Australia in terms of financial issues but have different arms to the operation worldwide but then late May we had the announcement of a new company replacing USG as our principal sponsor. Global health specialist Randox announced a partnership which will last three years. They had been involved in sponsoring the Grand National and recently, have been developing tests for Covid 19.



As for the kit and Adidas, I thought our contract was up now? However, we saw leaked versions of a new home kit/s and black and grey away kit which looked rather bland but this could be nonsense. Some said we had got a new three-year deal with Adidas but again this has not been confirmed. I liked some of the kits they have produced but they have produced some poor ones too. Not a fan of the home kit this last season but like the pink/green ones as they were something different. Adidas do produce good quality other leisurewear in the shop but it is expensive. Be interesting to see what happens moving forward. Beerschot have produced their own strip internally rather than outsourcing it figuring they can make all the profit from such a venture. Other clubs have done this (Wednesday gulp) with mixed results on quality, supply etc. It seems rumoured United may do the same for next season and Betis said we were exploring it and using them as a trial. We will see. It would be nice to see something traditional but a bit innovative all the same for the strips. It is a bit tiresome having the same template designs other clubs have just shoehorned into a Blades design. Like many areas of the club an uncertain future in this area too.



In terms of crowds and ticketing/fans experience, well nothing to comment on. The final game ticket prices were ridiculous for a dead rubber and also a missed chance for some good will to be given back after so long being starved of live football.



Some clubs sold season tickets for the season we have just had or tried to sell tickets of some nature and in the end, it backfired as nobody went almost at every ground. I thought United were better to wait and were right in the end. We now have no idea how many fans will be allowed next season still. According to the government guidance everything should open up moving forward and the test events held were to see how things would work. I am still to be convinced that grounds will suddenly be allowed to go full capacity and like most things in society they will probably want to build things up and see how things go; even with the nation almost entirely being vaccinated by August when football resumes. I think away games may still be off the agenda for a while until they see what happens. I hope I am wrong as we can all get back but talk of passports is confusing when u18’s have not been vaccinated – can they not go anymore? It is all still uncertain.



United put season tickets on sale but the systems seemed a bit of a mess and was fraught with problems in the early days. Not sure what they do if they sell say 20,000 season tickets and ground are restricted to 50% capacity? I think the days of fans going every week home and away still may be off the agenda for a while yet though whatever people’s arguments on it (I get that now if we have all been vaccinated etc there is an argument we need to just get on with things including letting clubs fill football ground but from the government perspective if rates spiralled and death rates rose again then it would maybe a foolish move not to build things up slowly for these huge events). Hard one but from a selfish point of view just hope I am at the Lane again in August. I think there will be lots desperate to get back (include myself) but also a fair few nervous due to health needs (even if vaccinated) or actually have found other pursuits allied to our struggles and not sure we will see a sold-out Lane for quite some time. Hope I am wrong. Just be a different experience going to the matches I think in the short term.



Last year, I commented on the excellent work the social media team had done. I said that some of the videos and marketing stuff had been sensational and real tear jerkers at times! However, when things are going well, you want as much content as you can get. Now after a horrific year it has started to grate a bit. Not sure it is their fault but the constant goat emoji’s or Mousset pirate videos don’t really work when you are losing every week. Also, the contact look backs to games when we won/or were good starts to tire really when you are bottom of the league in the present. It is disappointing that they seemingly were not allowed to do a proper Wilder tribute video either. Also, in recent days some felt it smacked a bit propaganda-ery in it’s releases with Wilder noticeable by his absence in tributes to glories over the last few years. Maybe that is just normal with a manager leaving – they are not going to be celebrating him or his involvement a few weeks after he had gone and I think some fans were a little naïve if they think he was going to be all over promotional material. It did not really bother me. The season ticket video was really good though in terms of trying to bring the feel-good factor back.



Shout out at this point to all the unofficial stuff coming out from Dem Blades fanzine, Vlogs like The Sheff Utd Way (done some fantastic work almost daily at times) and Shoreham View and then the podcasts such as Blades Pod/4 Blades. Some of the clothes/merchandise/Art produced by Shoreham St Magnifique, Arty Bianco and Luke Prest is all brilliant too. Also, it is fantastic the work Rainbow Blades had done too in trying to make the club and fans more inclusive. There really is some great content out there so well done all. Of course, S2 4SU and its moderators/creators continue to do an amazing job also along with posters like Roy and his superb view from. Not sure many make much actual money from it and most are doing it for the love of the Blades so it really is good to hear/see/watch so much great content and all are different/offer something to fans. I do think the local press (to be fair two seem ok - Nathan Hemmingham does not seem bad at Yorkshire Live and gets some exclusives or things we did not know about. Ditto for Richard Sutcliffe at the Athletic writes some decent stuff too) seem very stale and the likes of Shield/Hall/Biggs rarely get any inside scoops or news stories. Shield and Biggs in particular are long serving and obviously are competent at what they do or would not have a made a living but rarely if ever do they tell us something we did not know or is that interesting. Biggs gives his opinions which is one facet of journalism but I can hear that from any fan really? I want a bit more. They do not seem to have any kind of relationship with the powers that be but were not exactly getting much out of Wilder too even though many seemed to think they had a positive relationship with him – surely, they have been there long enough to get some kind of exclusives or things we do not already know? Sadly, the nationals get more stuff than the Star and our city daily often throws stuff out days or weeks after the story has come out. They seem restricted to writing about old players but as decent servants as they were do you really want to be hearing about Matt Hill or Paddy Kenny or more about the here and now and what might be happening? Quite poor really but as I say luckily, we have the excellent S2 4SU and lots of other sources to get our information. It is incredible that people pay for the subscriptions the Star does which you have to in order to see the local news. I do wonder from a Sports point of view who exactly subscribes? 30 years ago, Tony Pritchett was a proper journalist who had a good relationship with the manager AND the board. Those days seem long gone.



As an aside the long serving groundsman; Glenn Nortcliffe and his team have continued to maintain an excellent pitch. Even with some tricky weather; it looks fine and to see it almost perfect by the season end is testament to why it was important to get the Desso. The pitch always seems to look really good and you compare it to our city rivals and there is no comparison.



The spectre of Kevin McCabe still refuses to go away though as signs were erected near the corner of the Kop and John Street and the other end on the corner of Cherry Street as the two pieces of land, he owns he publicly announced would see construction start on student flats and offices. Seemed more posturing from him. Surely, he could make more money selling these to Abdullah and knows one of them may have an issue undergoing planning permission as it could deny access/entry to the Kop? Be interesting to see what happens with this but McCabe is probably laughing a bit at all the stick the Prince is now getting after recent developments. One thing for sure, McCabe had his chance and despite him saying how much money he put in, the reality is he never had the finances to support a top-level club (maybe the Prince does not either of course) and had made numerous bad decisions over his tenure. He had his chance and the end it was his appalling deal (business wise) he made that saw him outmanoeuvred by the Prince and lose control. I do not have any sympathy with him and whatever happens not sure we were going anywhere with McCabe. As long as the Prince does not move us out of the Lane or change our colours/name etc then even if we sell a load of players and struggle then not sure that is any worse than much of McCabe’s chairmanship!



Grade E- - Hard one to grade. On and off the field we seemed to be going in the right direction. Now a year later and everyone is panning us including our own fans. The board did give funds for signings but we have got relegated and none of the signings (except Ramsdale) have been a particular success. We have lost maybe the greatest manager we ever had (certainly recent times), our signings have not come off and recruitment has been disastrous (they sign off on the checks as much as Wilder was criticised) and we are now back in the Championship. A lot depends on how the new manager fares and winning at first team level fixes a lot of things but off the field we are no further forward with the academy or training ground developments. Also, as much as there is agreement, we need to change how we run things in terms of recruitment or scouting we have not made any significant moves yet in this regard (Last season B+)



Next season




I wrote last season in this section the following; ‘There are so many positive things at the club from the board and the people behind the scenes and we are investing on and off the field. To me the priority has to be still keeping Wilder happy and backing him – if we continue to be successful on the field; the other things will swing into action and happen due to the success and the funds it will bring from many areas (TV, sponsorship etc).’



Fast forward a year and for whatever reason we did not keep Wilder happy. We struggled, he left and we got relegated. All the financial income will be slashed hugely without the revenue the Premier League brings in. Every season you stay there is worth so much so to exit after two is not far off a disaster. We would have expected to build on the first season but just like that we are gone. Last time we did a season. This time two. We seem incapable as a club of building a structure or set up that can see us sustain things at the top level. Maybe that is the problem – we have relied on individuals like Bassett, Warnock and Wilder to generate this incredible team spirit and there is nothing behind it. We may have to accept that in history Sheffield clubs do not attract wealthy owners. It is frustrating when you look at clubs like Blackburn, Middlesboro, Wolves and Leicester who have ended up with sizeable investment into their clubs. You can argue we are a bigger club than all of those. Wednesday could say the same even though results/recent history would suggest otherwise. Both sides cannot get the top-level investor they need and when they have got someone with some financial substance decisions have been poor.



I do wonder whether the Prince may look to bring more investment in if he does not quite have the funds to compete with the real big hitters. Regardless of any immediate return to the top flight, let say we did get there in a year or two again (history again suggests it is going to be a long wait sadly) then what? We have the same problems. We simply need to improve the training ground and the academy needs to develop in terms of its production line and how it operates. We need to change our scouting and how we are managed behind the one man managing the side. Whether it be looking at the Brentford approach or elements of it or just simply diversifying how we operate – our whole recruitment of staff/players is very narrow. I personally would rather we had a longer-term plan so when we go up next time whether it is the Prince or another owner (probably another who is not that rich!) that we have something behind it that can see us stay there. We have to think differently and be more innovative. There is an argument we got there too fast maybe but you cannot pass up the chance and Wilder’s management was remarkable. Now we need to ensure that as a club if we get there again, we give ourselves a chance of remaining for longer.



It is a big year or so for Abdullah and the board. If we struggle with the new manager then the pressure will be on him and them. Quite quickly the momentum we had can disappear and you look at the likes of Sunderland, Portsmouth and Bolton and even others like Huddersfield and Stoke – suddenly you can be stuck in a rut and the chances of returning to the top flight within a year or so can seem unlikely. We need to see that there is a plan and structure on and off the field to give us something tangible (the Wilder years was built on spirit, some talent and his amazing leadership but after he struggled and then left – there was no substance behind us at all).
 

pommpey

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Cheers Deadbat.

Agree, this has been a terrible and tumultuous year for the staff and board - and the club and fans. I have faith in HRH - I think he has better intent for our future than McCabe had even though we have effectively collapsed in a footballing sense this season. I think you have been slightly kind on Wilder (will wait for your overall summing up on him however) in that his exit seemed petulant and somewhat insulting given he should have gone down with his ship. It was him after all who created this system and him who refused to change it when we were in trouble and him who signed the array of expensive duds believed to augment a fairly decent squad. There's having the buck stopping at your desk, and then there's upending the desk before it arrives. I appreciate HRHs piece to camera - it gave us some clarity (even if it was somewhat debatable regarding whole truth)

We wait with bated breath as to who he brings in and what that manager is able to do with a broken squad and a lorry full of expectations. Norwich went straight back up. That is the marker and maybe that is why HRH is taking his time over this. We don't want another Robson - Blackwell - Speed - Adams - Wilson - Weir - Clough - Adkins decline. We need a capable, intelligent and above all else, footballing manager who understand the game and what it takes to turn things around.

pommpey
 

mikeheath

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Thanks Deadbat, haven't read it all yet but did Abdullah give any credit to Wilder in his Sky interview (i.e. did he ever really have genuine respect for Wilder's achievements) and was it right to pull the plug on Wilder from December onwards (not convinced on all the "resigning" statements)? The loaning of Lingard was surely affordable and could well have provided the spark to make a fist of the fight.
Thanks again
 

Wards

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Thanks Deadbat, haven't read it all yet but did Abdullah give any credit to Wilder in his Sky interview (i.e. did he ever really have genuine respect for Wilder's achievements) and was it right to pull the plug on Wilder from December onwards (not convinced on all the "resigning" statements)? The loaning of Lingard was surely affordable and could well have provided the spark to make a fist of the fight.
Thanks again
Wishful thinking re: Lingard. No way the lad was coming to us once West Ham were interested.
 

mikeheath

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Wishful thinking re: Lingard. No way the lad was coming to us once West Ham were interested.
Perhaps but that's not a given. We were never allowed to try though and to have such a defeatist attitude is just not acceptable in my book.
"A game's never over until it's won"
 

coaxingstar71

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I think an E for the board is harsh, after all they can't be out there on the pitch and have any influence on actual results.

I watched the excellent Sheffield United Way by YorkBlade and Nick when they interviewed the accountant guy about the club's financial position and this seemed to suggest that the club has not been in such a stable financial position for many years. A welcome change for those of us that remember the various crooks and vagabonds that have been allowed to run the club in the past.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure the club now owns the ground, rather than leasing it and paying rent? If I've got this right, this means that even if the Prince leaves, the next owner would not have to buy the ground from him?
 

Webding

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I think an E for the board is harsh, after all they can't be out there on the pitch and have any influence on actual results.

I watched the excellent Sheffield United Way by YorkBlade and Nick when they interviewed the accountant guy about the club's financial position and this seemed to suggest that the club has not been in such a stable financial position for many years. A welcome change for those of us that remember the various crooks and vagabonds that have been allowed to run the club in the past.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure the club now owns the ground, rather than leasing it and paying rent? If I've got this right, this means that even if the Prince leaves, the next owner would not have to buy the ground from him?

I’d take what Darren Smith says with a shovel of salt, especially given he’s mates with the Prince. But either way, I don’t think we’ve particularly been in a bad way financially for years have we? We just haven’t spent all that much money… until recently, but most of that was Premier League cash (not Matty)

Anyway, what do you reckon the board have done this season that deserves more than an E? More failings than successes for me.
 

Yewsman

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Obviously written before SJs appointment confirmed and if all the noises and feed back from Fulham and Watford fans are to be believed then this seems to be a fantastic appointment; though obviously only time will tell. I am sure this factor alone would raise the Grade up from E. PA has to get a lot of credit for this.
it is safe to assume that SJ would not take the job without assurances on a reasonable budget.

personally I think what the club desperately needs is a proper scouting network. This should be a top priority. I do not think the squad needs a massive overhaul (though I would cash in on Berge at the right price) and many of the players who have looked poor in the EPL this season should be good enough in the Championship. Players like Norwood, Fleck, Robinson, McB, Osborn and hopefully Brewster. Having said that I think we do need to strengthen, particularly midfield and a decent scouting network would help us sign good players who can grow into the team and hopefully into PL if we can get back. Good use of loan system would also help.
 

Webding

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Obviously written before SJs appointment confirmed and if all the noises and feed back from Fulham and Watford fans are to be believed then this seems to be a fantastic appointment; though obviously only time will tell. I am sure this factor alone would raise the Grade up from E. PA has to get a lot of credit for this.

The appointment isn’t really anything to do with the 20/21 season though. Maybe he could claw back to an E+ based on having good reasons for the decision delay.
 

Deadbat

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The appointment isn’t really anything to do with the 20/21 season though. Maybe he could claw back to an E+ based on having good reasons for the decision delay.

Maybe the grade was a bit harsh but we finished bottom, our signings were awful (board have to approve these) and in 12 months seen nothing happen to the training ground/academy or the ground. They did give Wilder some money but it's been a poor year for all depts of the club so not sure how I can grade the board that highly.
 

Flatulent_Bob

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Maybe the grade was a bit harsh but we finished bottom, our signings were awful (board have to approve these) and in 12 months seen nothing happen to the training ground/academy or the ground. They did give Wilder some money but it's been a poor year for all depts of the club so not sure how I can grade the board that highly.
If the board are carrying the can for the quality of the signings, are you saying they should have blocked Wilder more, refused to sanction some of the deals and forced him to take their options?
I mean hindsight would have proven them correct, but that goes massively against the generally perceived wisdom as to how it should be done and would certainly have given Wilder and his supporters much more to grumble about.
Don’t you hire a guy to do a job and then trust them to do what you’re paying them for?
If they fall short then they carry the can for the signings and you carry it for thinking they were the right man in the first place.
 

Espania blade

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Great reporting as always DB, Many thanks.
My own thoughts are that CW had a lot of power, fair enough as he completely galvanised the club.
Personally from mu business experience you should never give an employee total control - without control!
I think at times CW should have been pulled back a bit - the power has to stay and be exercised by the owner of the business,
This clearly came to late and probably as a shock-wave to CW which ended up with his departure.

The Prince left his young son to oversee things, a young man with a young wife living in a strange country in a strange city with a Pandemic looming, a big ask for anybody - not taking into account empty stadiums!
Which meant Bettis was the sole "go to" for management decisions (that is his job after all). probably reporting back to the Prince in Qatar. To me this is also a big ask when the manager is a mate and a "legend" to supporters and everybody at the club, and things had been going so well for the club it would take a big decision to reign anybody in of that stature - the Prince showed he has the balls to make that stand - and my guess is he did - CW (perhaps) would not be agreeable to change so he had to go - personally i would have done the same thing.
It does beg the question how long Bettis might be at the club for ? maybe he will stay (assuming he is good at other stuff he has to do in his role), one thing for sure is, I think the Prince will be more hands on in future!

I think there will be sweeping changes at the club during the summer, both behind the scenes and the playing structure, it will be interesting times. Hopefully we can keep the likes of Heckingbottom, Lester and a few others - maybe even a role for Knill.

It is obvious that with the structure of the Princes "United world" that he has a long term plan to involve everybody in that structure,
SV did comment that he was attracted by the "reach" we had with other clubs within the "United family"

I think it would be a really exciting time to be employed by the club at a higher level, with the appointment of a "proven" manager
at this level and the "connections" with other clubs and staff (not forgetting Van Winckel!) - seeing or overseeing the changes afoot would be my "dream job!

Thanks again to DB and all the other contributors to this wonderful (mostly) "chat board"
Have a great summer guys & gals.
 

BornOnShorehamStreet

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Excellent as usual Deadbat but as others have said, E is harsh (or is it actually E- ?) as the issues we have had have largely been caused by the former manager and whatever happened to the team when they crossed the white line. I can't see how much more supportive the Board could have been and they were right to stop the flow of cash out of the building when they did. Perhaps CW had too much power but we all believed he was our Svengali didn't we? It's all about opinions isn't it and we all have one ;)
 

Revolution

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The board:

  • Gave more money to Wilder to spend in one summer than we have spent combined in every previous summer
  • did not sell any of our key players in summer 2020
  • raised our social media profile (not my cup of tea, but you can't deny they do good work)
  • Did not take money for season tickets off fans last season, unlike some other clubs I could name
  • talked Wilder out of resigning at least twice
  • refused to go for loanees in the window, thinking (rightly) it was good money after bad
  • when Wilder did resign, appointed a temporary manager for the balance of the season, and appointed a highly rated permanent manager 4 days after the end of the season with the minimum of fuss, in accordance with the timetable they set themselves.

They are not perfect (Burnley ticket issue, training ground) but that deserves a hell of a lot more than an E.

If blame is going to be apportioned for this train wreck of a season, the only debate is whether Wilder or the playing squad were more culpable. The board are a distant third. Hell, it's arguable that COVID is more to blame for this season than the board.
 

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