Ahead of this weekend’s Championship opener against Sheffield United, Dan Long sat down with BBC Radio Sheffield’s Rob Staton to find out the latest from Bramall Lane…
So Rob, the Blades are back in the Championship after six seasons away; how’s their preparation been going this pre-season?
It’s been a really good pre-season that has included impressive victories against Malaga and Stoke City. They’ve been able to make a few signings including the high-profile return of Ched Evans to Bramall Lane and then Richard Stearman coming in from Wolves. They’re a team with an identity and Chris Wilder has developed a system that should work well in the Championship. I would expect that they are going to do better than maybe some people think this season.
Are you expecting any change in the way they set up this season?
Based on what I’ve seen in pre-season, no - they’re playing in a similar style that is very attack-minded. They’ve got a good squad, with quite a few strikers – and midfielders like Paul Coutts - who have played at this level before. I think we’ll see a very similar team to the one that walked to the title last year.
You mentioned the summer signings – of those, who do you think has the most potential?
You could look at Ched Evans and say that there was a lot of talk within the media when he played for Sheffield United but the last time he was playing for the Blades, he scored a lot of goals. He’s got ambitions of getting back into the Wales team and after an injury-plagued season at Chesterfield, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in the Championship. There’s going to be some good competition between him and Leon Clarke to partner Billy Sharp.
What’s your impression of Brentford and what are you expecting this weekend?
From seeing Brentford over the last couple of years, I’m expecting a good team first and foremost; a team that’s capable of beating anybody in the league on their day. Griffin Park is never an easy place to go and the club has a focus on players that play the game the right way. There are probably 12 teams who’ll be thinking they can make a push for the playoffs this year and I’d think that Brentford are firmly within that group.
In Simon Moore and Jack O’Connell, there’s two ex-Bees plying their trade at Bramall Lane – how important are they to the team?
Moore was fantastic when he came in. For a good few years there was always the talk about the number one shirt, with people like Steve Simonsen and George Long taking on the role but with mixed success. But as soon as Simon Moore came in, he was the number one and that answered a really big question for the club – he’s been one of Wilder’s best signings.
Jack O’Connell has a great affection with the fans – they’ve got a song, which probably isn’t for publishing! Towards the end of last season, he looked comfortable lining up in a back three and became a goal threat.
If you could add one Brentford player to the Sheffield United squad, who would it be?
I know that Alan Judge has had his injury issues but whenever I’ve seen him over the years I’ve always been really impressed. If there is one thing that United need, it’s that real top-class quality in the Championship, somebody like Judge who can create and score goals. If you could give us a healthy Judge then he would be the one.
Can I push you for a score prediction?
Seeing as I primarily cover United for BBC Radio Sheffield, I’m going to have to go with Sheffield United. I think it’ll be a close game, but I think the Blades will edge it 2-1.