Beattie bolsters Blades’ attacking options

Blades' James Beattie
Blades' James Beattie
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Danny Wilson already has a strikeforce that has delivered 68 goals this season, but he could not hide his delight yesterday at the news James Beattie will further enhance Sheffield United’s firepower.

The Blades have secured the services of 33-year-old Beattie until the end of the season, providing a tried and trusted alternative up front to the likes of Ched Evans, Richard Cresswell and Chris Porter as they seek an immediate return to the Championship.

Beattie, who has already made seven substitute appearances for United this season, has been courted by at least three other clubs during this transfer window but chose to remain at Bramall Lane, where he enjoyed a prolific two-year spell between 2007 and 2009.

It could turn out to be the club’s only piece of business this January with manager Wilson content for the transfer window to close now, believing the squad at his disposal is good enough to duel with Charlton Athletic, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday for automatic promotion.

Beattie has an opportunity to build his match fitness – rated at between 50 and 70 per cent by Wilson – as he serves a three-match ban for his dismissal late in the 1-0 defeat at Charlton on Saturday, a matter the club have decided not to appeal.

He will miss tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth-round tie with Birmingham City at Bramall Lane and subsequent league fixtures with Colchester United and Wycombe Wanderers, but will be back in contention for what could be season-defining games with Huddersfield and Wednesday at the end of February.

Wilson said Beattie, formerly of Southampton, Everton and Stoke City, will bring an experience that can inspire his younger strikers to greater heights.

“To know we have got him for the rest of the season is a great feeling,” he said. “James is very committed to the club and very excited to be playing here.

“There were opportunities for him to go elsewhere but he has decided to stay and we are delighted to have him for what he brings both on and off the pitch.

“Money is not an issue for him, it’s about the football and he is staying with us for all the right reasons. He knows this club better than I do, he knows it inside out.

“His thoughts were all about playing and he will have to prove that he deserves to be in the team. He can still contribute on the pitch and he knows what he has to do.

“We actually have a very quiet dressing room and James is very good at bringing some of the younger players out of their shell.

“He will have an influence on Ched on the training ground. Young players should look up to players like that every day and I’m sure it will rub off on Ched – it will have a major influence.”

Wilson was bullish on the prospect of keeping Evans, who has scored 18 times in all competitions this season – including five in the FA Cup – beyond the end of the season.

“We could offer Ched a new contract, but not on his current terms. We will have to see what happens in the summer, but he is enjoying his football and that means a lot to him.”

With the transfer window due to close next Tuesday there was a suggestion that midfielder Billy Clarke might return to the club from Blackpool after a month-long loan deal earlier in the season.

But Wilson insisted that the club would not throw money at signings for the sake of it, adding that the season could have taken a very different path had millions of pounds been spent in the summer.

“Billy Clarke remains on our radar but we don’t know whether they are willing to let him out or not,” he said.

“For us it would have to be a loan and for them they want to sell him.

“We aren’t going to sign players for the sake of it. Individuals might not be right for us and the squad we have at the moment has been brilliant, with even more to offer. There are players on the fringes of the squad who are bursting to play.

“So we don’t want to waste money. Throwing money at players doesn’t always work because you could get the wrong players and the wrong blend.

“If there had been £20m on offer in the summer, we may have brought someone in and someone like Ched Evans may have left.”

Wilson expressed his admiration for Chris Hughton, the Birmingham manager, whose side have already played 37 matches in the Championship, FA Cup, Carling Cup and Europa League this season.

The Blues have become cup specialists, as attested by their Carling Cup success last season and, more recently, their 1-0 FA Cup third-round replay win against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week, yet are still placed sixth in the league.

They will visit Bramall Lane tomorrow backed by over 4,000 supporters and buoyed by an eight-match unbeaten run.

“His players were very committed against Wolves and that performance was a good reflection on his ability and his influence as a manager,” said Wilson.

The Blades have no fresh injury concerns for the match, while Birmingham will be boosted by the return of defenders Pablo Ibanez and Liam Ridgewell from knee and hamstring injuries respectively. Chilean midfielder Jean Beausejour has moved to Wigan Athletic.