New Blades MD aims to restore family club feel

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SHEFFIELD United’s appointment of a football man as new managing director is further proof of an acceptance that the club’s core activity has been neglected.

Football board chairman Chris Steer today joins owner Kevin McCabe in a pledge to right the wrongs that have seen the team slide into the third tier.

Dave McCarthy may not be known outside a city where he was previously manager and then operations chief of Sheffield FC.

But Steer insists McCarthy’s on-field background - which includes playing spells in New Zealand, Finland and Australia - is a sign of the club getting its priorities back in order.

“It is significant that Dave is a football man,” said Steer after McCarthy’s elevation to take charge of day-to-day affairs along with finance chief David Harrop.

“The club has been restructured and all of us on the board have held our hands up. We’ve looked at the total core of the business and we want to go back to being a family club.

“We’ve missed that a bit and now it’s a must. We seem to have done a lot abroad and now we are coming back to Sheffield. Hands have been held up that we’ve neglected that a bit.

“Maybe we’ve gone amiss. We have Dave as a football person in the middle and we’re getting back to what we’re good at.”

Ironically, McCarthy, 45, has gained some of his credentials working with two of United’s foreign outlets, Ferencvaros and Chengdu Blades. But the focus has unmistakably switched back to Bramall Lane where this week Frank Barlow began working in Danny Wilson’s new management team.

This, too, is a step towards regaining a family feel at Bramall Lane. After all the initial furore over Wilson’s links with Sheffield Wednesday, Barlow is a binding ingredient as a one-time Blades player who has long supported the club.

The fact that Barlow, 64, later had spells in managerial roles at Hillsborough, including under Wilson himself, has been overlooked - swelling the argument that a minority of dissenting fans have taken tribalism too far.

Barlow, who has worked for a total of 13 clubs as a player, manager and coach, is hopeful the protest is on the wane - though he admits that results will be paramount.

“I think I expected it,” he said, referring to the initial uproar over his friend’s appointment. “It was disappointing but natural. But from my own point of view - and I’m sure I speak for Danny as well - the relationship between the two clubs in Sheffield has always been excellent.

“So I hope the feeling peters out. But the big thing is to get results. If we adjust to League One and make a good start, it will all pale into insignificance.”

New manager Wilson is not the only senior member of the hierarchy who now works among staff at the club.

Steer and director Scott McCabe, son of chairman Kevin, have also relocated themselves to the John Street side of the ground in order to have closer contact with employees.

United are also intent on forging closer links with supporters.

Although the fans’ response to relegation was remarkably tolerant,frustration festered among them.

That probably explains why the reaction to Wilson’s appointment was so pronounced. There is a theory around the club that he became a convenient outlet for that frustration. Now that it has been vented, a more balanced view is starting to prevail.