West Brom v Sheffield United: Ben Davies relishing fresh start at Bramall Lane

These are exciting times for Ben Davies, finally looking forward to playing football again – and in front of spectators to boot – after a spell at Liverpool that did not work out as planned. Sheffield United at last have a new signing after a summer of searching.

Ben Davies signs for Sheffield United on a season long loan from Liverpool. Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage

But the main focus of questions to Blades manager Slavisa Jokanovic yesterday were not about on-loan centre-back Davies or tonight’s Championship hosts West Bromwich Albion, but the possibility of Aaron Ramsdale leaving.

Jokanovic is clear – if it was up to him, he would not sell the goalkeeper for £100m, but it is not. When he joined in the summer, he was told Ramsdale and Sander Berge would be sold if the club got an offer it could not refuse. The rest, he claims, are up to him.

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It feels like every summer just about every club has a transfer saga and theirs is Ramsdale’s will-he-won’t-he with Arsenal. Ramsdale would prefer it to be yes, but there are no signs of a fuss kicking up, at least not when Jokanovic spoke to the media a fortnight before the transfer deadline.

Equally, there are no signs of Jokanovic complaining about the cards he has been dealt. Working for a like-minded manager, you can see why Davies is already starting to feel at home.

“Naturally he wants to be a Premier League player,” says Jokanovic of Ramsdale.

“He believes it can be a good move for himself, but (that) it is not a bad thing for him if he stays with us.

“He is a talented English player and I understand why Arsenal are interested, but if he is one of the best players in the league, his price is really high. In the end the decision can be with Arsenal if they want him or not. If they want him they need to spend a lot of money.

“Arsenal is pushing from one side and I am pulling from a different side. They have more tools than me.”

The Blades’ transfer business has been frustratingly slow this summer. If there are any sales, better soon so the money can be reinvested. Jokanovic has been honest about his interest in Sampdoria midfielder Ronaldo Vieira but the loan is still pending.

The Serb wanted five new faces and so far only Davies has been crossed off. Manchester United winger Amad Diallo has been spoken of in the gossip columns.

“To talk about two names is enough,” sidestepped Jokanovic, hitting the outer limits of his transfer window glasnost.

It has been a 2021 where Davies has learnt a lot, just not much on the field. Liverpool bought him from Preston North End to cover their decimated central defensive ranks, then never played him. That, on the back of half a year playing behind closed doors for Preston, should make his Blades debut something to savour.

“I played a little bit in front of fans for Liverpool in pre-season but that atmosphere when you’re getting warmed up and getting ready to come out the tunnel, I haven’t had that for a long time,” says Davies, in tonight’s squad. “It’s going to be really exciting. As I’ve got older I’ve got calmer but I’ll be nervous for my debut.”

He has no regrets over his Liverpool move and says the time was not wasted.

“You have no real choice to keep the standards high because you have athletes around you that don’t let up,” he argues. “I’d worked really hard to get to a position where Liverpool would come in for me, I didn’t want to let people down.

“It’s improved me as an all-round professional. I’ve grown up a lot.

“It was a really strange and mad experience at first. Sheffield United feels like a club I’m used to, but Liverpool was kind of a different world.

“At Preston, for example, I would go out of the house for food or a walk and you might get the odd person looking. When I played for Liverpool someone would be over, asking for a selfie or if I’m Ben. I’d go to the same places and it just blew up a bit.”

With his squad evolving as he looks for a first Championship win – or even goal as a Blade – Jokanovic needs patience. He knows full well he will not get it.

“I don’t want to start crying,” he says rolling out a favourite catchphrase.

“People buy the tickets, 29,000 at the first game, and I can’t go into the stands and tell them to be patient.

“This crowd has shown enough patience, so I won’t push them for more. I desperately need results and better performances. It’s not a big difference between me and the people in the stands.”

With an adaptable centre-back who can also play full-back he is a step closer to the squad he wants. Jokanovic, like Davies, will make the most of his lot.

Last six games: West Bromwich Albion WDLLLL; Sheffield United DWLWLW

Referee: M Donohue (Greater Manchester)

Last time: West Bromwich Albion 1 Sheffield United 0, November 28, 2020, Premier League.