Exclusive: Blades need both style and substance

Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
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Sheffield United’s new owner believes manager David Weir still has to prove himself at Sheffield United but has warned: “No one escapes the blame”.

In an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Post, Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s principal adviser Jim Phipps has praised the “amazing” work that Weir has carried out behind the scenes since taking charge in the summer.

But, ahead of tonight’s League One visit of Crawley Town to Bramall Lane – with the Blades bottom of the table and on a six-match losing streak – Phipps believes the honeymoon is over.

“We are reaching a moment where calls for patience and discussions about settling in and gelling will fall on deaf ears,” said Phipps, a Blades director who represented the Saudi Arabian Prince in the deal which saw him become joint-owner with Kevin McCabe a month ago.

“The time for the lads to show what they can do as a squad has more or less arrived.

“David Weir came to Sheffield United with a remit to build a system that could carry the club into the Championship and the Prem.

“Yes, David Weir still has something to prove, but he understands that. He knows this business well and he understands the pressures of time and the realities of the profession he has chosen.”

Phipps said the Prince – who has already invested heavily in United’s squad with the recruitment of players like Jose Baxter, Florent Cuvelier, Marlon King and Ryan Hall – was surprised by United’s league position, but insisted: “The McCabes and the Prince are committed to taking this club up.

“The Prince has been around football for a long time, so there is probably little that might surprise him, but I think as with all involved (fans, management, players) we did not anticipate being at the bottom of the third division table at the end of September.”

The Blades have produced some impressive patches of football this season, for example in the first half against Wolverhampton Wanderers six days ago, but have failed to turn possession into goals – or points.

United have lost seven out of nine League One games, their only win coming two months ago on the opening day of the season when they defeated 10-man Notts County.

Weir has been credited with transforming the Blades’ playing style. but pressure is growing on the former Everton coach to deliver results, starting tonight against Crawley.

Phipps denied claims that former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane had been lined up as Weir’s replacement if results did not improve.

And he believes everyone at Bramall Lane must take responsibility for the Blades’ poor start – not just Weir.

“I am not sure of its origin, but in law practice we always said, ‘Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan’. Ain’t it the truth? We all like to be around to take credit, but rarely responsibility,” said Phipps.

“No one escapes blame. The lads need to bring it. The manager and his staff need to step it up.”

Weir yesterday said improved recent displays by the Blades had strengthened his resolve that the club was on the right tracks.

But Weir – who hopes to sign Cardiff City left-back Simon Lappin in time to play tonight – acknowledged points too were now vital to reflect their performances on the pitch.

“Results would help, they are the main indicator, points too are another important indicator,” he said. “But from a footballing standpoint, seeing what we are seeing and speaking to other people as well is re-enforcing the view that things are falling into place and there are positive signs.

“But as I keep saying, points are so important. Key to improving the performances is keeping the points tally moving along. Obviously I have had a few disappointments recently, and it’s hard to take. It’s not enjoyable to lose games so we need to get that winning feeling.

“There’s been really promising signs the last couple of games. The first half against Preston, the first 60 minutes against Wolves when I thought we looked really good – we looked like a team.”

The Blades boss has introduced a change of style, with more emphasis on retaining the ball with slick passing.

Weir has praised the Blades players for embracing the new system, even if the dressing room has seen its confidence dented.

“It’s hard to keep the lads’ spirits up, but we have just tried to say keep believing in what you are doing,” said Weir.

“One hundred per cent have been totally behind what we want to do, I have no complaints regards their ethics, belief.

“Everything I have asked them to do they have done, and a little bit extra. They can see the signs that it’s coming together.”

Blades defender Tony McMahon insists the dressing room is united in their support of Weir.

“The players are behind the manager 100 per cent,” he said.

“You can see we play miles better football. This is how we want to play, this is how I was brought up to play, proper football. The ball on the ground, passing it round.

“We are judged on results, and we haven’t been getting them, we are not going to hide away.

“We are not going to say we have been brilliant because we have lost a lot of games, more games than we should, but we are buying into what the manager is doing.”