Brentford left-back Rico Henry could be the ideal signing for Sheffield United.
The Blades are currently in the market for a new defender following the news Jack O’Connell is likely to miss the rest of the season.
O’Connell underwent knee surgery on Wednesday and manager Chris Wilder is searching for a replacement.
Wilder has apparently already given a list of potential targets to the club’s board. Huddersfield Town centre-back Terence Kongolo is believed to be among them. The Sun (October 2, page 55) claims Bournemouth’s Diego Rico is another.
Signing either would make sense, with them both currently playing on the left of a three-man central defence for their respective teams.
Yet instead of moving for a like-for-like replacement for O’Connell, perhaps Wilder should consider a different approach.
Why Rico Henry makes sense
Despite O’Connell being such a key part of his defensive system, Wilder doesn’t look set to change it in his absence.
Against Leeds United last weekend, Jack Robinson replaced him in the position – just as he did when the 26-year-old missed matches through injury post-lockdown.
Robinson is a solid alternative, but does not seem ideally suited to the overlapping centre-back role. Which is no slight on the 27-year-old, as few are.
It’s a specialised job that O’Connell has spent the past four years perfecting.
Yet there is someone else in Wilder’s squad who suits it well – Enda Stevens. Generally utilised at left wing-back, Stevens played in central defence at times during the Blades’ promotion campaign from the Championship in 2018/19.
Due to his experience as a full-back, the Republic of Ireland international has no issues getting forwards.
Of course, shifting Stevens inside from the flank leaves a gap out there. Which is where Henry comes in.
The 23-year-old played a key part in the Bees’ run to the playoff final last season. Henry is an exciting talent with the capability of making the step up to the Premier League.
The Blades do also already have summer signing Max Lowe as an option as well. But with Stevens moving centrally, Henry could provide much needed competition for Lowe.
Plus, the Irishman has looked less than convincing at wing-back so far this term. It’s a demanding role for a 30-year-old, which is perhaps why Stevens is actually the perfect O’Connell replacement.