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Sheffield Dis-United
I`m going to have to nominate The Valley [Charlton Athletic] as the worst designed football ground, ever, having had the pleasure of visiting last Sunday. Thankfully, it did eventually turn into a worthwhile trip with Dan Shittu proving why Jay DeMerit will struggle to get into the team in the coming weeks.

The seating at Charlton is cramped, to say the least, and sitting in the front row, freezing my knackers off as we went 2-0 down, I was not best pleased to see massive queues for one toilet and even bigger ones for the one food kiosk. Great thinking, a bit like to decision to appoint Bryan Robson as Sheffield United manager, which is exactly what I want to talk about this week.

Kevin Blackwell has arrived at Bramall Lane, and I firmly believe that his appointment is an inspired one. He is a proven success at this level, you need look no further than the fact he got Leeds United to the Play Off Final on a shoe-string budget. In fact, Blackwell is a specialist at building a squad out of nothing. His Luton side, that same Luton who drew 1-1 with Liverpool at Kenilworth Road was made up of free and loan signings.

Therefore, I think it is highly likely that with the transfer window slammed shut until August, Blackwell will obviously have to bring in free agents or loan signings. Exactly what he specialises in having never really been able to spend money. Look at his Leeds squad. Jonathan Douglas, an Irish international on-loan, a catalyst in his side doing as well as they did. Paul Butler and Sean Gregan arrived for around 500k, the pair. Both were pivotal figures at Elland Road.

Furthermore, the former Blades assistant must have some sort of motivational magic inside him.

The way he handled his Luton squad and kept them fighting throughout going into administration and not getting paid for a number of months was fantastic. Evidently Blackwell can manage a squad short of confidence and club short of money, United certainly meet the first specification.

What is also in 'Blackie`s` favour is his Bramall Lane links. Having spent several years at the club as Neil Warnock`s assistant, he has the advantage of knowing all about a number of players at the Lane. Crucially, the like of Kenny, Morgan, Tonge and Montgomery are all integral parts of the squad. Also, Dean Brill is a Sheffield United player, on-loan at Luton, where Blackwell of course worked with him

I feel hugely for Sheffield United fans. Relegated, wrongly, on the last day of the season, and, love or loathe Warnock, you have to say he didn`t deserve to leave having been relegated.

After that travesty, the appointment of Bryan Robson; he is not a manager, not a good one certainly. Great players don`t, well, rarely make good players and Robbo is the epitomy of that.

Unfortunately I`ve only seen the Blades under Robbo once, that being the home league match, so I can`t cast a huge amount of judgement on them, but from what I remember, they offered little going forward.
And, when you consider the likes of Quinn, Gillespie, Tonge, Webber, Beattie, Stead, Sharp and so on are what the manager has as attacking options, something is evidently deeply wrong if results are not coming. Blades fans were very critical of the style of play and the evident over-reliance of James Beattie`s goals came to the fore when he was injured at the end of last year.

What Robson didn`t have that his predecessor Warnock did, was an attacking ethos. Warnock had strikers galore. The tactics were to get the ball to the strikers, bang, goal. If that didn`t work, through another on, if that didn`t, same again. And, if none of that worked, fall out with them, sell them and buy some more. Proven ones of course, i.e Geoff Horsefield, Ade Akinbiyi and Bruce Dyer are perfect for that mould!

Robson seems to be more cautious, although in his earlier days, he certainly wasn`t at Middlesborough, introducting Fabrizio Ravinelli and Juninho to English football.

Blackwell learnt something from Warnock because his Leeds squad once boasted Ian Moore, David Healy, Richard Creswell, Robbie Blake and Jermaine Beckford! Sheffield United deserve to be in the Premiership and hopefully Blackwell is the man to deliver Blades fans hopes…

Keep the faith,

Tom Bodell
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Writer:wfc123
Date:Wednesday February 20 2008
Time: 8:54AM

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