Sheffield United go into a new season with Slavisa Jokanovic hoping to bounce back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
The Blades were relegated in emphatic fashion last term. In simple terms, it was not good enough from start to finish. It culminated with Chris Wilder leaving the club, before Paul Heckingbottom ensured a strong finish.
But with Jokanovic now onboard and pre-season underway, it’s all systems go towards the new season. One of the key players for the Blades, and someone who Jokanovic knows well, is Ollie Norwood.
He’s expected to play a key role this season. However, his comments today on the club’s training facilities were surprising. Not in their content, but more in the timing, given it’s the first time we’ve heard from Norwood since the end of the season.
“We need better facilities, that’s quite obvious. Hopefully sooner rather than later that’ll be done. As players we think the journey we’ve took the club on to still not have proper training facilities is disappointing,” Norwood told BBC Radio Sheffield.
“We’ve been loud and clear. It’s not even we want, it’s we need. Maybe I’m speaking out of line but I just think we deserve rewarding for where we’ve put the club. A better training facility would help the club in years to come.”
And while it’s an obvious comment that’s well known among the fans, it is somewhat worrying that Norwood has chosen to bring it up.
Ollie Norwood makes a point
This is clearly something that has been bubbling under the radar among the Sheffield United squad. Norwood, as a senior player, has clearly used his air time to bring up the issue. And in a way, you have to admire him standing up for it.
The training facilities were one of the big issues Chris Wilder had when he was in charge. While it has its charm, the building up at Shirecliffe needs renovation and work. Indeed, a move to a new centre at Norton has also been mentioned. However, talk of that has been put on hold, with the pandemic the predictable reason, or excuse, if you will.
Actions speak louder than words
While there might not be anything in Norwood’s comments, or any malice, the fact he’s used the first chance he got to talk about it is startling.
It’s obviously a big issue for the players. They’ve tasted Premier League football and seen the facilities on offer in that league. Given they gave the club two years worth over £250m to the coffers, it’s easy to see why they want investment.
As Blades fans, we need to hope something like this doesn’t dominate or distract from their work on the pitch. Chris Wilder obviously embraced the old surroundings, but deep down, knew it needed change.
Hopefully, Jokanovic can put adequate pressure on the board to press ahead with at least some form of upgrade. He’ll surely see that for a team with aspirations of a PL return, it’s just not good enough.
For Ollie Norwood and the squad, they’ll simply have to buckle down. Yes, it’s not ideal, but ultimately, they need to do their best and work towards promotion.
Prince Abdullah, meanwhile, has a lot to prove. He came out in staunch defence of himself and his staff when Wilder went. ‘Actions speak louder than words’ is his mantra.
Maybe, then, it’s time he put that mantra into practice to help this group of players out that bit more.