Burnley v Sheffield United - Oliver Burke hoping to repay Blades’ gamble

Trying to compete with some of world football’s biggest and richest clubs means Sheffield United have to gamble. Tonight’s League Cup trip to Burnley will give a good indication of how the latest roll of the dice might pan out.
The next step... Oliver Burke signs for Sheffield United. Picture: Simon Bellis/SportimageThe next step... Oliver Burke signs for Sheffield United. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
The next step... Oliver Burke signs for Sheffield United. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Aaron Ramsdale had a mixed debut at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday but having already played for the club, the goalkeeper is not an unknown quantity.

The signings of Oliver Burke, Jayden Bogle, Max Lowe and Ethan Ampadu were more risky, and all four are set for Turf Moor debuts.

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Burke has all the makings of a classic Chris Wilder signing.

What the Blades really need this season is a proven 20-goal-a-season man with the pace to stretch defences. Players like that cost money they do not have.

Instead they have turned to Burke, whose first full campaign at Nottingham Forest generated such excitement that RB Leipzig, whose reputation is built on polishing some of Europe’s top young talent, paid £13m for him. That was five seasons ago. Since then, a £15m move to West Bromwich Albion, and loans at Celtic and Alaves have only pushed him six league goals on.

But Wilder likes unfulfilled talents. One, he can afford them – the Blades got Burke and cash for Callum Robinson – and two, they should have the hunger he demands. Having played in Germany and Spain 23-year-old Burke is undaunted by a challenge too.

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“I wouldn’t say I’ve ever fallen out of love with the game because I’d be raring ready to go in training the next day,” says Burke of a career which has seen him play almost twice as much from the bench as the start. “There are highs and lows in football and I’ve definitely experienced them but now it’s about really kicking on.

“Hopefully I can call this place home because I’m sick of packing my bags and moving.”

John Fleck was another boy wonder who took time to mature, and many more Blades were released by Premier League clubs as youngsters forcing them to take several steps backwards to move forwards. All recognise their debt to Wilder.

“One of the key points of coming to Sheffield United is having that belief from a manager who trusts you and knows what you’re capable of,” says Burke. “I’m really looking forward to working under him.”

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Whilst Tottenham Hotspur look to pick Gareth Bale off the peg, and Chelsea splash out on Bundesliga stars Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, United have to be more careful with their Covid-ravaged resources.

They have inquired about Florian Balogun, despite reports Arsenal want £15m for a forward who has never played senior football.

“We have to go down these roads,” argues Wilder. “With Ravel (Morrison) last year, we needed somebody who could do something a bit different but something a bit different is (usually) £40m and £50m and 70, 80 grand a week (in wages).

“I’d love to bring David Brooks (Bournemouth’s former Sheffield United winger) back to this football club (but could not afford to). Look at the amounts Jack Grealish is reportedly signing for (having agreed a new five-year contract with Aston Villa).

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“We have to take chances on players. Sometimes it’s lads who have not hit the heights they would like to have at previous clubs and we have to try and resurrect them as we’ve done with other players.

“It’s a combination of us and the players but we’re here to help Oli as much as we possibly can.

“I think he’s a ballsy player to make the moves he has. He’s taken himself out of the comfort zone and he’s going to have to do that here.

“He’s got the raw ingredients we require.”

Burke finally comes to the Premier League a much more rounded player.

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“Hopefully I can learn from my experiences and really kick on now,” he says. “I’m still young and have a lot to improve on. I believe I can do that here and I have the right people around me who want to help me grow as a player. I can’t wait to get started.”

The new boys have been signed for their ability to fit into United’s quirky system and tonight’s game, where the winners will earn a trip to Millwall, is their first chance to show they can do it in a match situation.

“They’ve been part of all the group meetings and presentations we’ve had,” says Wilder. “I’ve been immensely impressed with all of them, their attitude and enthusiasm.

“We would have liked to have gone through the whole process of pre-season and work on the training ground so they’ve not had the work they should have so far but they’re bright boys and they’ll pick it up quickly.

“I’ve not brought anybody in to be squad-fillers.”

Last six games: Burnley LWDDWD; Sheffield United: LLLLWW.

Referee: P Tierney (Wigan).

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Last time: Burnley 1 Sheffield United 1, July 5, 2020, Premier League.

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