When Sheffield United signed John Egan back in 2018, a few eyebrows were raised amongst supporters at Bramall Lane.
The Blades had parted with a club-record fee to bring in the Brentford man. Chris Wilder, seemingly delighted to have got the Irishman, called it a huge signing at the time. Indeed, he described him as his ‘number one target in that position’.
However, unaccustomed to seeing their club part with big sums of money, Blades fans were, rightfully, sceptical. Spending around £4m on a defender was hardly a glamour signing. Especially, given United had sold David Brooks for around £12m and seemingly used that money to bring in a centre half.
But fast-forward two years and any Blades fans who were worried have been emphatically proven wrong.
Egan has been nothing short of superb. In his time with the club, he’s cemented himself as a regular for the Republic of Ireland, helped the Blades to the Premier League and has now established himself in the top-flight.
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So impressive have Egan’s performances been, that clubs such as Everton have been linked with mega-money moves for the 27-year-old.
Egan has been an absolute rock at the back for Sheffield United this season. Playing at the heart of the back three, he’s missed only one game due to a concussion.
Few defenders in the league have such responsibility on them. With Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham encouraged to get forward next to him, Egan’s reading of situations and the game is integral. He does that expertly.
Furthermore, he’s also dominant in defensive stats. A quick glance and comparison to Liverpool defender Joe Gomez (one of the most highly-rated defenders in the league), sees Egan come out on top.
Egan sits above Gomez when it comes to blocks, interceptions, tackles won, clearances, aerial battles won, and last man tackles. (Premier League.com)
Furthermore, Egan is also seemingly starting more attacks for the Blades. Quite impressively, he has made more forward passes (295) and had more touches than the Liverpool man.
Granted, and for context, Gomez has appeared in only 16 games to Egan’s 24. But in such a dominant team like Liverpool, Gomez’s numbers will always be high.
Who else can claim to be the best for Sheffield United?
Obviously, this is a matter of opinion. In my lifetime watching the Blades, few have come close to being as good as the Irishman at centre-back.
One fellow Irish star, Paul McGrath, is one who can probably claim to be on par. However, McGrath played only a handful of games and was well past his best (although still brilliant), when he played for the club.
Chris Morgan was the leader at the back for years. Phil Jagielka, now back with the club, is an obvious name to chuck in as well.
But few have been as consistently brilliant like John Egan has.
Composure, calmness (he’s been booked just twice), and a willingness to put his body in the line when needed, means that, for me, John Egan sits top of the pile when it comes to Sheffield United defenders.