Kevin Blackwell was sacked by Sheffield United on Saturday evening and, if reports are to be believed, could be replaced imminently by current Blades Coach Gary Speed. The former Everton and Leeds United midfielder is the overwhelming bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Blackwell, but, according to John Bond of the Sheffield United Independent Supporters, Speed does not have the full backing of Blades fans.
“Speed’s lack of experience is a major concern for every Sheffield United fan I have spoken to. However, most United fans are savvy enough to know that Speed has a great reputation as a player and he’ll no doubt have some great connections in the game,” Bond said, adding: “My worry is that we would be handing him a very tough job and for his first attempt at management, it may make sense to appoint a director of football to assist him with the day-to-day running of the football club.”
Blackwell departed the Yorkshire club after a disappointing start to the season that has seen the Blades fail to win a game, drawing away at Cardiff City, losing in the Carling Cup to Hartlepool United and at home to Queens Park Rangers, now managed by United legend Neil Warnock. The weekend’s defeat proved too much for the board after the 2009/10 season saw the side fail to make the play-offs, and Bond feels a change should have been made sooner: “[The board] were prepared to give Blackwell another shot at getting the club into the play-offs and possibly promoted. After missing out on the play-offs last season, I would have personally liked to have seen them make the decision to relieve Blackwell of his job in May.”
Whoever replaces Blackwell faces a rebuilding job at Brammall Lane, according to Bond. He said: “Last season, we were not prepared for the year ahead. We had a small squad and whenever we picked up injuries or suspensions, we had little or no cover for them. The lack of depth in the squad meant we had to rely on both short and long term loan deals, which resulted in the club incurring higher costs in respect of wages.” Bond, however, sees Blackwell’s leaving as an opportunity to re-invent the Blades’ image, after years of being tagged as an ugly, direct team. He said: “I would love Sheffield United to enter a phase of cultural change and for us to get back our reputation as a footballing club. Since the appointment of Dave Bassett, we have long been associated, sometimes wrongly, as a long ball team.
“Of the candidates I have seen linked with the club, my preferred choice would be Sean O’Driscoll. O’Driscoll is a football purist and his Doncaster Rovers side are one of the most attractive passing sides in the division. The board now need to make a managerial appointment for the good and for the future of the club. We need a plan, some direction and stability that fans can buy into. If they see positive things happening both on and off the field, Sheffield United fans will back it with passion and commitment by the bucket.”