Sheffield United 5 Bournemouth 3: Cut-price Cresswell proving bargain to Blades

Richard Cresswell has revealed he took a pay cut and snubbed the offer of Championship football to stay at Sheffield United.

The Blades veteran striker has been frozen out of first-team action this season because of contractual issues, as the Bramall Lane club looked to get some of their high earners like Stephen Quinn and Nick Montgomery off the wages bill.

But rather than pack his bags and accept offers from rival clubs, including an unnamed Championship side, Cresswell and the Blades thrashed out a compromise deal which saw the striker take a drop in wages but also land a coaching role.

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Bridlington-born Cresswell celebrated his new player-coach status by coming off the substitutes’ bench for his first appearance of the season to score in an action-packed win to maintain the Blades’ unbeaten start to the campaign.

“It has been a difficult month, obviously not being involved due to contractual issues, but it was nice to get them sorted last week and get out on the pitch,” said the 34-year-old. “That’s all I want to do.

“I had the opportunity to go to the Championship and earn more money until the end of the season, I could have gone to a few League One sides too, but I never wanted to do it. I always wanted to stay here.

“This will be my fourth season here now and I love the club. Fortunately for me, we came to a compromise. I did take a cut in wages, which not many footballers do these days, just to play football.

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“Plus the gaffer has given me the opportunity to coach the Under-21s when I get chance, which will develop me and I am really pleased.

“But that (coaching) is a long way off. I love playing football. I came back pre-season and I am one of the fittest guys in the team. At my age it’s still nice to be running at the front, but that’s due to me looking after myself through the summer.”

United earned victory with a splendid first-half response after initially trailing to Tommy 
Elphick’s 20th-minute opener for Bournemouth.

The Cherries midfielder got on the end of Eunan O’Kane’s cross and headed beyond Mark Howard into the roof of the net in front of a stunned Kop.

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Lewis Grabban was proving to be a real nuisance to the United defence and he was just wide when he drilled a low shot beyond Howard’s right-hand post.

Neil Collins had come closest to opening the scoring for the Blades in the early exchanges, firing off target from Ryan Flynn’s corner.

But the Blades were soon back on level terms after Kevin McDonald had hammered a thunderous drive which struck the inside of the post before rebounding clear.

Then when a back-post header was knocked back into the six-yard area from Matt Hill’s cross, Flynn pounced to fire home the first goal in front of the newly-named Jessica Ennis Stand.

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If the Blades midfielder showed predatory instincts for his first goal, his second was delivered with superb skill. When Tony McMahon’s cross found its way to unmarked Flynn beyond the back post, he cut inside and curled an exquisite shot around visiting goalkeeper Shwan Jalal.

The best was saved until last in the first half when John Cofie shrugged off his markers as he charged towards goal before delivering a 25-yard effort which gave Jalal no chance.

The Cherries cut the deficit to one goal three minutes into the second half. O’Kane’s corner caught the Blades’ defence napping and Lee Barnard – on loan from Southampton – headed home at the far post.

It took Cresswell’s header – the Blades striker had only been on the pitch for a few minutes after replacing Cofie – to make it 4-2, after he got on the end of a hanging cross from Flynn to the delight of the 18,790 crowd.

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The match then calmed down and looked set for a sedate finish before Marc Pugh smashed home a 25-yard shot that had the Blades regulars who were heading for the exits suddenly hanging on for a nervous last few minutes.

Nick Blackman finally settled the contest when the striker was felled inside the area and converted the resulting penalty in stoppage time.

While Cofie and Blackman have started the season as United first-choice pairing, Cresswell is determined to challenge for a starting spot under Danny Wilson, while also sharing his wisdom with the rookie duo along the way.

“We have a young side with a lot of enthusiasm and, hopefully, I can pass on my experiences with what I have gained over the years,” said Cresswell, who will be helping Chris Morgan with the Under-21s on match-days as they play on Monday afternoons.

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“Obviously, we have now got a lot of strikers at the club and it will be difficult for me to play as many games as I did last season, but I will be pushing the lads all the way.”

While Cresswell remains a Blade, Friday saw Quinn depart for Hull and 30-year-old Montgomery – who came through the ranks at United and made over 400 appearances – opt for a career in Australia with the A-League’s Central Coast Mariners.

“I’ve loved my time at Sheffield United and will leave with great memories,” said Montgomery. “I have turned down so many opportunities to move in the past but I have always stayed loyal to the club as they have to me.

“You don’t stay in one place for as long as I did if you don’t have affection for the club, but I appreciate the situation at Bramall Lane and feel it is the right time to move on.”