Sheffield United v Preston NE - Experienced midfielder Conor Hourihane already making his presence felt at Blades

CONOR HOURIHANE and fellow midfield recruit Adlene Guedioura may have only been at Sheffield United for the footballing equivalent of five minutes, but they are busy making themselves heard.

And Slavisa Jokanovic, for one, could not be happier.

Guedioura, who has been around the club’s Shirecliffe training ground for several weeks, finally signed a deal on Monday to keep him at United for the 2021-22 season.

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The 35-year-old is hardly in the first flush of youth, but Jokanovic is confident about what he will bring to the party with the Algerian having the battle scars and the honours to go with it.

Champion class: Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura, left, in action for Nottingham Forest against Sheffield United has signed a one-year deal with the Blades.Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

When questioned about his credentials, Jokanovic – who worked with Guedioura at Watford and Qatari club Al-Gharafa – replied with an air of certainty and authority: “He is the champion of one continent.’

Guedioura, of course, being an African Cup of Nations winner with Algeria in 2019, while also being promoted to the Premier League with Watford under Jokanovic in 2014-15.

His achievements merit respect as do those of Hourihane, a former Championship play-off winner and someone who has won three times at Wembley, including twice as a captain during an epic 56-day spell at Barnsley in a golden spring in 2016 when the Reds followed up success in the Football League Trophy with League One play-off glory.

Such achievements will resonate among a strong core of senior players at Bramall Lane who have seen it, done it and got the T-shirt. A group who also do not suffer fools gladly.

No wallflower: Sheffield United midfielder Conor Hourihane. Picture: Simon Belliis/Sportimage

That said, there is no harm in another senior voice or two shaking things up a bit, as Jokanovic will be wise enough to know. Both Aston Villa loanee Hourihane and Guedioura won’t be fazed either.

Hourihane, previously a familiar face to the Blades’ Republic of Ireland contingent, said: “I suppose it is just the type of character I am and (with) the people who know me in the building, it means that it has been an easy bedding-in period.

“I know I have been here only four or five days, but it already feels like a good fit. I am experienced and thirty and have played in this league for quite a few years and in the Premier League for a little bit and been promoted.

“Having done that before and being the age that I am, I cannot be too timid about the place and you have to show that experience to get things going and the character I am just comes naturally.

Reunited: Slaviska Jokanovic is pleased to have signed midfielder Adlene Guedioura after the pair worked together at Watford. Picture: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“Knowing some lads and fitting in is great. I know how the manager wants the team to play and it suits my style and I feel I can bring bits and pieces to the group. I have settled in nicely and even finding a place off the pitch for your family settles you in nicely – in not living out of a hotel.”

After the Blades’ season began in earnest by way of a scintillating weekend win over Peterborough, where Morgan Gibbs-White and Iliman Ndiaye announced themselves in spectacular fashion, the finalising of Guedioura’s move is a development that has also gone down well with Jokanovic.

The extent of Saturday’s triumph means there is no immediate rush to throw in the midfield enforcer tonight, but given the Blades’ busy itinerary, his debut might not be too far in coming.

His presence, allied to Hourihane’s, in driving daily standards will also be significant.

Both may be senior figures, yet seasoned campaigners have proved their weight in gold for the Blades in the past. Perhaps the biggest example of that being Stuart McCall, whose importance was inestimable during the Neil Warnock era.

On Guedioura, Blades chief Jokanovic, whose confirmed that Ben Davies is available for the visit of his former club, commented: “He is the champion of one continent. There is no question about loyalty, No-one is more loyal than him; not my brother.

“But I don’t sign my friend. We bring in a guy with a lot of experience in the Championship and the Premier League and he has a lot of battles behind him. Even without a contract, he helped us a lot in these few weeks.

“In the next 18 days, we have six games and it will give us a chance to see how he can help us.

“This is not a job for a learner and there are a lot of jobs you do not see and they are behind the scenes. He is a guy who can improve himself and other players.

“In the last game, I was impressed with the movement of Billy Sharp and hope he can help the players in his position and you can also talk about people like Conor and Adlene who can help others and it is one of the most important things in football. These people have had more battles than others.”

Jokanovic could welcome back Robin Olsen and Sander Berge tonight, but the game comes too soon for Lys Mousset, Enda Stevens and David McGoldrick, who will return to training next week.

Last six games: Sheffield United DLLWDW; Preston LLWWWD.

Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).

Last time: Sheffield United 3 Preston 2, September 22, 2018; Championship.