Wilder defiant as Brooks is cherry-picked from Blades

Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd during the pre-season training at the Shirecliffe Academy. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd during the pre-season training at the Shirecliffe Academy. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Have your say

AS a team Sheffield United have shown emphatically during two seasons of high achievement that they are far greater than the sum of their parts.

The imminent big-money sale of the player widely perceived to be the ‘jewel in their crown’ in the shape of the prodigiously-talented David Brooks may be provoking emotions of dismay among Unitedites, but perspective, logic and a touch of defiance is apparent in the words of manager Chris Wilder.

Wales international Brooks travelled to Premier League outfit Bournemouth yesterday to undergo a medical and discuss personal terms after the south coast club agreed a deal worth up to £15m with performance-related instalments, with the Blades due to receive a £12m downpayment.

Wilder has been around management long enough to recognise the futility of trying to keep a player who has been attracted by the bright lights of the top flight and the life-changing aspects that go with it.

Equally he has handled much worse than the prospective departure of a leading light, with the Blades’ chief secure in the knowledge that his squad is still abundant with many existing players several Championship rivals would love to take given half a chance.

It would also be impolitic to suggest that Wilder has not made contingencies in his mind for the potential loss of Brooks.

The 20-year-old has been linked with a host of top-flight outfits over the past year since making a name for himself on the back of being named as the player of the tournament after helping England Under-20s win at Toulon last June – ahead of switching allegiance to Wales at full international level.

For many shrewd observers it was always a case of when not if Brooks headed for pastures new with Wilder now entrusted with dealing with the future.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Wilder said: “I do not think anything surprises you in football, especially nowadays. We do not live in an ideal world. In an idealistic situation you keep everyone from your academy. We have been in League One for six years, we are moving up, but we are not in the Premier League.

“I answered a question there about building a team around David Brooks. I think that would be really disrespectful to the likes of John Fleck and Jack O’Connell.

“Yes, we would have loved to have kept him. But we have still got some really good players here. I look at the group and think, ‘if the season starts now can we compete in the division?’ Yes.’”

This said, the exit of Brooks will undeniably take away a key creative option from the Blades, who have prioritised some pacy and dynamic forward additions, with Wilder making it clear that he is anxious to supplement his ranks with more Championship-ready and proven quality this summer.

Wilder’s clout in the market would be swelled by a fair chunk of the proceeds from the big-money sale of Brooks, with the plan for reinvestment critical, according to the Blades’ chief.

“It is a question I will ask. It is the key question for me,” he said.

“They understand that, the owners. Kevin (McCabe) and the Prince (Abdullah Bin Mosa’ad Abdulaziz Al Saud) have been in football long enough to understand the mechanics.

“They know if you lose one of your best players you have to reinvest to keep improving.

“People talk about the psychology of the game and the tactics. For me the biggest thing is recruitment. You must have an eye for a player and know where he will fit in and how.”