Rotherham United’s summer target, Lyle Taylor, will finally grace the New York Stadium today – but in the colours of rivals Sheffield United.
The 23-year-old striker came within hours of joining the Millers only for the deal to collapse over personal terms.
That opened the door for the Blades to step in and buy the Falkirk striker, leaving Rotherham manager Steve Evans a frustrated figure.
It was, perhaps, a sign of things to come given this week’s arrival of a wealthy new owner at Bramall Lane – Saudi Arabian Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who will hold a media conference this morning before attending the sell-out League One match – meaning the Blades now have increased spending powers.
Evans, for one, believes today’s opponents are already reaping the benefits of a new owner, who has bought a 50 cent stake to share ownership with Kevin McCabe, having splashed out to bring in the trio of Taylor, Florent Cuvelier and Jose Baxter as well as Manchester City youngster Harry Bunn on loan.
“It’s an exciting game,” said Evans. “Despite them saying they have had some hard times before the Prince’s arrival, they have spent a million pounds.
“They signed Taylor, Cuvelier and Baxter. That’s a million pounds-worth of transfer fees for those three.
“Obviously I would assume the McCabe family – who have been fantastic for that football club – would have known of the Prince’s coming in, putting in his money, hence allowing those signings.
“People have forgot these players. They are three top players.
“I would think Mr McCabe sanctioned those knowing that Prince Abdullah is signed and coming on board.”
Evans’s estimate may be a little off the mark as the Yorkshire Post understands the trio cost closer to the £600,000 mark.
Forward Taylor – who netted 29 times last season in Scotland – is yet to score for the Blades, but Evans is a big admirer of the former Millwall and Bournemouth striker.
“We were quite well down the line,” he said. “At one stage, we thought he would be signing later that day. But Paul Douglas (Rotherham’s chief operating officer) told me if we agreed to the personal terms that the player and his representatives were demanding it would take our dressing room out of sync. We would not do that for any player.
“Paul Douglas asked me for my thoughts and, as manager, I told him to pull the plug.
“He’s a good player, a goal-scorer with great movement and ability to hold up play.
“It’s taken a little bit of time to settle in at Sheffield United, according to reports and a couple of DVDs that I have watched, but that happens.
“He’s a young man and, although he didn’t sign for us, he doesn’t become a bad player. He’s still a talented player.”
Unlike some local rivals there are strong bonds between the clubs, going back a decade to when then Blades manager Neil Warnock loaned Stephen Quinn and Jonathan Forte to a Millers side beset with financial troubles.
Evans is well aware of the clubs’ history. He said: “Prince Abdullah, the McCabe family and everybody at Sheffield United will be treated with the respect they deserve.
“This football club never forgets that Sheffield United – under the McCabe family and Neil Warnock – in times of stress and desperate times at Rotherham United, stepped up and provided players free of charge to keep this club alive.
“This is the friendly derby, off the pitch. On it, it will be contested just as fierce as every other derby. At 3pm, the friendly derby becomes a war.
“But at 4.55pm, that war disappears into the background and it becomes a friendliness again because there’s a great deal of respect between these football clubs at senior level.”
Rotherham kick off in the unusual position of being favourites against their illustrious neighbours, having made an unbeaten start to life in League One following promotion.
The Blades have not won in the league for a month – since their opening-day victory against 10-man Notts County – and are slowly taking time to adapt to life under new manager David Weir.
With Kari Arnason and Michael O’Connor away on international duty, and several players out injured, the Millers played a behind-closed-doors friendly with Premier League champions Manchester United in midweek to give a run-out to players like Claude Davis, Pablo Mills, Richard Brindley and Daniel Nardiello.
It also allowed Evans to meet with old friend, United manager David Moyes, at their Carrington training ground.
“I have known Moyesy a long time. I grew up with him, played five years with him as a kid,” said Evans. “He slept at mine, I slept at his many, many times.
“They played seven or eight Premiership players, we had some kids in our team, and they all came through great. It was very positive.
“They had Fabio, Anderson, Alex Buttner, Anders Lindegaard. Nicky Butt took the team, Ryan Giggs was with him.
“Then watching the game was Rio (Ferdinand) with Wayne Rooney sitting on the sidelines. I spent the entire game watching it with Moyesy; that was a learning curve for all of us.”
Evans will be forced to field a makeshift side today, and admits it could be the best time for the Blades to face them.
“I think Sheffield United have got us, quite possibly, at the best time they could, with so many players missing,” he said.
“If you include (David) Worrall, who would probably start, (Mark) Bradley, Arnason and O’Connor, who would definitely start, we are getting close to half a team out.
“They get us at the best time, but we have got such resolve and tenacity in our dressing room that – because we are missing those players – it gives others the opportunity to step up and make a name for themselves.
“They know if they step up and perform, it doesn’t matter if you have been injured or on international duty, you return and sit on the bench.”