Blades Preview - 29th January, away
Here`s an irony for you; just as Sheffield United come up on the fixture list, I reach the final few chapters of Neil Warnock`s excellent autobiography! And, when you consider how things are going for Warnock`s replacement, Bryan Robson, you have to wonder if they`d take the Palace gaffer back.
It has to be said, Warnock and Robson are in about as stark a contrast as you could hope to find. Warnock the animated ranter and raver on the touchline, the self-proclaimed 'King of the play-offs` then Robson, the often miserable, labelled 'King of failure`. It has to be said, of all former Manchester United players who have gone into football management, Robson has probably done the worst, his only real success keeping W.B.A up on Week 38 of the 2004-2005 Premiership campaign.
Although his side are currently faltering in the League, they have today [Sunday] knocked Manchester City out of the F.A Cup having also beaten Bolton last round, so all is not bad. Fourteenth in the league is disappointing however and when you consider the amount of money spent, it`s easy to see why Robson is under pressure.
Four million for James Beattie looks like a shrewd piece of business, however with the former England cap out injured, Robson`s side have lacked firepower despite the presence of Luton Shelton, Rob Hulse, Danny Webber and Jon Stead in their squad. But when you take a player with double figures out of the team, they will always struggle.
In fairness, Hulse and Stead have looked a steady combination, and although neither lacks height, the old double act of pace and power is there. Stead finally looks to be getting back to the form he enjoyed early on in his Blackburn career having notched several goals toward the back end of last season. His confidence took a pounding when he was signed by Sunderland to score the goals that would keep them in the Prem; needless to say he didn`t and a period of inactivity ensued.
Hulse has scored virtually everywhere he`s been however and Sheffield, in particular, Yorkshire has been kind to him. Notching 18 in 52 for Leeds led to a 2million pound move to Sheffield United where he struck gold with a number of Premiership strikes including one against Liverpool one day one of their ill-fated campaign. Prior to that the rangy forward had played for West Brom and Hyde United [on-loan] where he notched 9 in 8 games!
Like many other footballers in the top leagues of English Football, Crewe Alexandra was where it all began for the 6`1" striker where he struck up a good partnership with Dean Ashton.
Up front the Blades are strong, and defensively also, so it has to be said it`s something of a wonder they are languishing so low. Matt Kilgallon has been a defensive revelation since signing from rivals Leeds last year and with Leigh Bromby and club captain Chris Morgan also fighting it out at the back, the mystery deepens.
What hasn`t helped the Blades cause is the loss of James Beattie; the powerful forward was injured around the festive period and will miss Tuesday`s game. Rob Hulse has spent a long time injured and Danny Webber, a favourite of Neil Warnock is unsettled in Yorkshire if reports are to be believed.
But with all these injury problems, you still cannot blame a lack of quality in the squad. United were one of the favourites to go back up, and perhaps their quality-laden squad is groaning under the weight of expectation…
2007/08: Watford 1-0 Sheffield United
2006/07: Sheffield United 1-0 Watford
Watford 0-1 Sheffield United
2005/06: Sheffield United 1-4 Watford
Watford 2-3 Sheffield United
Sheffield United XI
Kenny; Bromby, Kilgallon, Morgan (c), Naysmith; Martin, Montgomery, Speed, Tonge; Hulse and Stead.
Lee; Mariappa, Doyley, DeMerit (c), Sadler; Smith, Williamson, Francis, McAnuff; Ellington and Henderson.
Come on you 'Ornnsssss!