Sheffield United are facing up to a big summer ahead of the Premier League, where recruitment will be key to giving the Blades a fighting chance.
This season, Paul Heckingbottom managed to keep his squad together while supplementing things with impressive loan signings. Both Tommy Doyle and James McAtee were big hits, while Ciaran Clark was unlucky with injuries and the form of Jack Robinson.
Loan signings are expected to be key again next term. Stuart McCall said as much in his presser last week, while Paul Heckingbottom has also nodded towards there not being masses of cash available.
Of course, every Blades fan would love to see both Doyle and McAtee return. But with PL rules dictating that United can only take one or the other on loan, the Blades might face a tough decision.
The likelihood of Doyle returning seems higher. United will have less of the ball, meaning Doyle’s battling qualities might be more useful than McAtee’s attacking prowess. Further, other clubs are keen on McAtee as well.
However, that’s not to say United don’t need to invest in attacking flair and one man who could fill the void left by McAtee is Tottenham youngster, Alfie Devine.
Still just 18, Devine was picked up by Tottenham with Wigan struggling financially. He was seen as a huge bargain for Spurs and has featured in and around the first-team this season.
Indeed, at the time of leaving Wigan, a certain Jamie Carragher expressed his disappointment at seeing Devine leave his son’s team.
“Watched Alfie for a couple years & he’s top class. Just gutted Wigan couldn’t keep hold of him after the great work they’ve put into developing him & all their other prospects. Absolute disgrace what them owners have done!,” Carragher said at the time.
Further to Carragher’s praise, former interim manager Cristian Stellini also praised Devine. After promotion him to the first-team picture, Stellini confirmed that Devine is more than ready to compete at first-team level.
“Since we have lost Bissouma and Bentancur, he trains with us 100 percent. Sometimes he goes to play for the U21s,” Stellini said.
“He has the quality and the power in his mind. Mentally he’s a good player and he trains every day, and he trains completely at our level.”
With Devine now expected to be loaned out next season, there could be a chance for United to strike a deal here.
Paul Heckingbottom has already spoken of the need to get ‘five or six of the right ones’ in. With that in mind, landing a player like Alfie Devine brings risks.
As yet, he’s not got much behind him in terms of first-team football. And as we saw with McAtee early on, it can take time to adapt to the rigours of first-team life.
On the plus side, Devine very much seems a top talent. Training with the Spurs first-team will be doing him the world of good and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him play between now and the end of the season under Ryan Mason.
For United, the summer’s signings could very much be risk/reward. In Devine, the risk is there in terms of age, experience, and ability to cope physically.
But in terms of reward, a young player with a point to prove, who can play in those advanced attacking midfield positions, could well be vital.
Certainly, Devine is one for Blades fans to keep a close eye on over the summer months.