“You’re just a shit Neil Warnock” was the refrain aimed by Burnley fans at Kevin Blackwell in the television gantry as the Clarets roared into the Play off Final in May. A week and a half later and his jocular reaction was no longer in evidence. Wembley distress must have come harder for the Boston United goalkeeping legend than anyone, still smarting as he was from his Leeds’ side’s 3-0 reverse against Watford at the same stage in 2006.
Is Blackwell ever to remain the bridesmaid? He seems determined not to be and Blades are ever being touted as contenders this summer. Kyel Reid was a first very canny signing, the winger having impressed on loan to Blackpool from West Ham last autumn and the South Yorkshire club have since been linked with the triumvirate of John-Joe O’Toole, Tommy Smith and Michael McIndoe. Paddy Kenny’s cough mixture will probably prove to be a minor distraction and Sun Jihai and on loan Greg Halford have moved on, the latter after a surprisingly barnstorming run in.
But it’s those Kyles who hold the key to joy for Unitedites. In the modern game, full backs in the role of your most creative players have been legion. As sides pack their midfields with water carriers, the only significant space on the field has been on the deep flanks, so swashbuckling defenders have become de rigueur. May 25 was a black day for Sheffield United but Naughton and Walker impressed greatly: the former attracting the attention of Everton. Elsewhere, the impression is of a side that play percentages well although Stephen Quinn showed major signs of fulfilling his rich promise in 2008-9 and Jamie Ward is one of those signings that even neutrals will wish well, having earned his corn a few miles across the county boundary with those Chesterfield Spireites. Bramall Lane will be a niggly venue to visit for the highfalutin newcomers from the Riverside and St. James’s and Blades will surely feature in the shake up.