Perhaps the most surprising thing about the statement Leeds published last week confirming Paul Heckingbottom’s departure was not that another manager had been sacked before learning the opening lines of ‘Marching on Together’ but that Elland Road employed a dedicated free-kick specialist.
Four paragraphs down, buried beneath the usual half-baked platitudes and disingenuous nonsense, was a note revealing “set piece coach” Gianni Vio’s contract would not be renewed. Employing someone with such a limited remit might be innovative. Or, on the other hand, it could simply be extravagant and a waste of money. Either way, Vio’s presence in West Yorkshire underlined the gulf between the have’s and the have not’s. And confirmed, beyond all reasonable doubt, that Chris Wilder runs a pretty tight ship at Bramall Lane where his assistant Alan Knill oversees things like defending throw-ins and attacking corners.
For that reason alone, although many others can be offered, the Sheffield United manager should receive all the monies generated if David Brooks is prised away this summer. Of course, everyone connected with the club hopes he remains in situ when the new Championship season gets underway. But, such has been his progress since graduating from its youth system, interest in the youngster is inevitable. And, whether we like it or not, joining a top-flight club can be life-changing experience. In both a sporting sense and, even more so, a financial one too.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote that gaining promotion from League One would help United keep their best young players. It undoubtedly has, even though the uncertainty surrounding Brooks, who recently changed his agent, seems to disprove this argument. Would John Fleck have signed a new long term contract if they were still in the third tier? Probably not. The same goes for Jack O’Connell.
Brooks, however, possess the type of talent and potential which would make him a target for England’s richest sides even if United were in the Premier League. Like it or not, pound notes equal power. There is a pecking order, an economic food chain. Teams take advantage of those with smaller pockets. It is how United recruited Fleck in the first place, together with John Lundstram and Ryan Leonard. Selling a player does not necessarily make you, in the derogatory sense, a selling club.
Of course, Brooks might not leave. But if he does, the best way of granting Wilder’s squad even greater levels of protection is helping them reach the elite level themselves. Which is why his board of directors must ensure any unexpected or unbudgeted revenue is made available, in its entirety, for the manager to spend. By overseeing a pretty slim line operation, by being prudent, Wilder has earned that right.