While Prince Abdullah again dredging up his power struggle with Kevin McCabe might have set a few eyes rolling, it only highlights what a good job his manager Chris Wilder is going at Sheffield United.
Abdullah has spoken about how he “screwed” McCabe to win their bitter two-year power struggle, but despite the ongoing chatter there are encouraging signs the Blades are moving on.
The £22m fee agreed last week for Sander Berge and last month’s new four-and-a-half-year contract for Wilder, suggest a club not content to rely on its good fortune. Add the court ruling that there were “no good grounds” for McCabe to appeal being forced to sell and there is hope the Blades can put behind them a conflict which, thanks to Wilder, did remarkably little damage on the field.
Many an English club has come a cropper trying to “kick on”. The Blades have struck a good balance between ambition and realism, with Wilder seemingly driving both.
“Sander’s (transfer is) obviously a big one but the deal’s structured, we’re not putting ourselves in a position financially where we’re going to struggle,” he stressed on Saturday.
The signings of Jack Rodwell and Jack Robinson were not bank-breakers, and Richairo Zivkiovic and Panagiotis Retsos have joined on loan.
Abdullah’s real blessing has been having Wilder as manager. At least the new contract acknowledges that.Stuart Rayner
It is a long way from the recklessness of the “roulette clause” McCabe triggered in December 2017 to wrest control from his Saudi co-owner in 2013.
When McCabe offered £5m for Abdullah’s 50 per cent stake, the prince was entitled to make a counter-offer if he also bought the club’s property assets, including Bramall Lane, from McCabe, who calculated he could not afford it.
Only once Wilder secured promotion to the Premier League did Abdullah offer to do that, knowing the club – whose value instantly leapt to £104m – could afford to pay for them itself.
“I have had bad luck in some businesses in the past,” Abdullah admitted to The Guardian. “I had some good luck (this time).
“Kevin thought both scenarios are good for him; he thought either he buys me out (for £5m) or I have to buy him out and buy the real estate. He wanted to use the agreement to screw me.”
Abdullah’s real blessing has been having Wilder as manager. At least the new contract acknowledges that.
Managing a 21st Century football team is about “managing up” as well as down. Wilder is doing both brilliantly.