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First Team

Media View: Expert insight on Sheffield United


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to complete a Premier League back-to-back win double when they host Sheffield United at Vitality Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

Marcus Tavernier’s double and Justin Kluivert’s first top-flight goal earned the Cherries a 3-1 victory against the Blades at Bramall Lane at the end of November.

Kluivert was joined on the scoresheet by Antoine Semenyo as Andoni Iraola’s team triumphed 2-0 against Burnley on Sunday having beaten the Clarets in October.

Since hosting the Cherries in South Yorkshire, Sheffield United have picked up eight points from 14 games in the Premier League and are currently 11 points from safety in 20th place.

James McAtee bagged the only goal as they recorded a 1-0 win over Brentford, the Manchester City loanee netting a penalty in their 3-1 victory at Luton in January.

Cameron Archer, who also scored against the Hatters, was on target in their 1-1 draw at Aston Villa, while a Ben Brereton Diaz goal and a penalty from Oli McBurnie earned them a 2-2 draw with West Ham.

The Blades have had a change of manager since facing the Cherries with former boss Chris Wilder replacing Paul Heckingbottom in December.

Ahead of Saturday’s clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Danny Hall who covers the fortunes of the Blades for the Sheffield Star.

Danny is also the author of four books, including legendary Blades goalkeeper Paddy Kenny's autobiography The Gloves Are Off and the Sheffield United tomes He's One of Our Own, We're Not Going to Wembley and Our Time.


Founded: 1899

Ground: Bramall Lane

Nicknames: The Blades

Record appearances: Joe Shaw – 714 games (1945-66)

Record goalscorer: Harry Johnson Jr – 252 goals in 351 games

Manager: Chris Wilder (appointed December 2023)

League position: 20th

Leading goalscorer: James McAtee (five in all competitions)

Last game: Sheffield United 0 Arsenal 6 (Premier League)

afcb.co.uk: How have the Blades fared since the teams last met in November?

DH: In a word, badly!

There has been the odd high since, including wins against Brentford and Luton and a superb display at Villa that was seconds away from victory against a team who hadn’t lost since about 1994 ahead of kick-off.

But the week after Bournemouth saw a 5-0 hammering at Burnley that was for me the low point of the season so far and ultimately cost Paul Heckingbottom his job.

In recent weeks, things have gone from bad to worse with a squad low on confidence and belief taking blow after blow and not being able to lay a counter-punch in return.

Many Blades fans now simply can’t wait for the season to end.

afcb.co.uk: Are you surprised with how the season has gone considering they finished 11 points clear in second place in the Championship last season?

DH: Yes and no.

United and Burnley were comfortably the best teams in the Championship last season but their seasons this time around say everything about the sheer gulf in quality between the second tier and the Premier League.

United’s transfer approach in the summer was also to sign quantity over quality with a number of unproven players arriving in English football, never mind the Premier League, and a lot of experienced lads who knew the club and league leaving.

They sold their two best players on the eve of the season and went into the first few games with two debutants up front, one fresh from a loan spell at Derby in League One and the other signed from Sweden.

No disrespect to either but that showed how underprepared they were, with teenagers making up the squad as winnable games against the likes of Palace and Forest slipped away.

They still competed – a late defeat at Spurs was still a big turning point in my view after they were 1-0 up going into injury time – but eventually the lack of quality, depth and belief showed.

afcb.co.uk: How do you find Chris Wilder (pictured above) away from the media glare?

DH: He’s a straight up Yorkshireman, what you see is what you get.

I don’t think it’s betraying any confidences to say that he enjoys a beer and his wealth of experience as a player and manager makes for some great stories.

It’s been a rough return to the club but I can’t think of anyone better to take on the rebuilding job at his boyhood club.

afcb.co.uk: Give us a word on James McAtee (pictured above)? 

DH: Player.

He’s still very raw and that shows at times but he’s come on leaps and bounds as a player and a person from his loan spells at United and has that moment of magic in his left foot to make something out of nothing.

I think many at United will take great pride and interest in his journey back at City and beyond.

afcb.co.uk: Who is their rising star?

DH: There are a few but I’d have to say Oli Arblaster (pictured above, right), who made his Premier League debut on Monday and is one of the most promising players to come out of the academy in years.

A composed midfielder, he impressed on loan at Port Vale in the first half of the season and now has a dream Premier League chance with his boyhood club in an otherwise nightmare season for United.

afcb.co.uk: Are any key players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

DH: Where to start!

Injuries have been another major factor in United’s struggle this season.

Hardly any of their first team have not had an issue at some point, with John Egan and Chris Basham two long-term key absentees.

Those two plus Tom Davies went down within the space of a week and then Rhian Brewster hurt his hamstring again, probably ending his season.

Max Lowe and Rhys Norrington-Davies, both Wilder’s left-backs, then suffered season-ending injuries in the same game.

George Baldock and Ben Brereton Diaz are back but Mason Holgate (pictured above) is suspended after his rash red card against Brighton.

afcb.co.uk: How do you see this one panning out and what’s your score prediction? 

DH: It’s going to sound like a cop out but I’m not even really thinking about the scoreline for this one.

After what’s gone on recently at home, all Unitedites want to see is a proper Sheffield United performance; one of character and heart.

If we get that and even don’t get a result, it’ll feel like progress.

I’ll be optimistic and tip a battling away draw!

You can follow Danny on X (formerly Twitter) – @dannyhall04

Officials: Anthony Taylor (referee), Gary Beswick (assistant), Adam Nunn (assistant), Keith Stroud (fourth official), Michael Salisbury (VAR).


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