Success is only option for Blades this time, insists chairman

Sheffield United's Jim Phipps believes the club will be handed a promotion cheque at the end of the campaign (Picture: Martyn Harrison).
Sheffield United's Jim Phipps believes the club will be handed a promotion cheque at the end of the campaign (Picture: Martyn Harrison).
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Sheffield United co-chairman Jim Phipps admits failure at Bramall Lane could cost him his job.

Managers live and die by the sword in a performance-driven industry where a losing run is often followed by the axe.

But unlike many chairmen in the Football League, Phipps does not own the club he runs. He has been appointed, with Blades’ joint-owner Prince Abdullah bin Mossad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud promoting his principal adviser to oversee promotion from League One.

The Saudi Arabian royal has been forced to take a watching brief after taking up a government role in his homeland, and Phipps is well aware of the challenge he faces.

“I might be one of the only chairmen in League One who might be fired for non-performance,” said American Phipps, who is co-chairman alongside Kevin McCabe.

“I am not the owner, Prince Abdullah is the guy who owns the ownership interest.

“I have a very simple target behind SUFC – promotion. We are all committed to that.

“It’s very important for us to be promoted and we will spend the resources to get there. We will do it sensibly.

“We follow the rules, with SCMP (salary cost management protocol). Last year we bumped right up against it, we didn’t go over, and we have our foot on the gas. My guess is we will this year be close to the limit.”

Despite stepping down as co-chairman himself, Prince Abdullah still keeps close tabs on United’s displays, and watches every game on TV.

“The Prince is very interested in this club,” stressed Phipps.

“He’s very busy but follows all the matches. The Prince will hold me to a very high standard, he holds the club to a high standard. He made his money the old-fashioned way, the hard way, by building business from the ground up and he knows the value of money.

“The money he has put in he expects to produce results. He knows he has a long and open-ended commitment to funding the club. You can’t be in this on a casual basis. And if we fail, who’s the buyer? Basically, success is the only option.”

It has been just over 13 months since Prince Abdullah bought a 50 per cent stake in the Blades for £1 and Phipps says it has been a “roller-coaster ride” but believes they have the right man in manager Nigel Clough.

“We have built something special, which is a model which will last us a good long while,” said Phipps. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride. We started off dire last season. We got to the point where we made a manager change and since then Nigel has put together a record which is very respectable.

“We have transformed the culture of how we make decisions and how we run the football club; a lot more power to the manager and the front-office management, a more hands-off approach from the board.

“There has been nothing to make me think we don’t have the right people aboard. We have a good long-term solution in hand.

“The record over the course of nearly a year since Nigel has been here is outstanding.

“All we need to do is give him the time and resources. My guess is we will be smiling and collecting a promotion cheque, then dealing with the next layer of investment.

“One of the reasons why Nigel was so interesting to us is the amazing work he did at his previous two clubs, where he spent a combined total of 15 years. We have a manager with whom we can sleep at night.”