Football Features

Would this XI of active ex-Sheffield United players beat the current side?

By Steve Jennings

Published: 15:30, 17 June 2020

With just 10 Premier League games left to play, Sheffield United are in with a genuine chance of finishing in the top four. 

The Blades are enjoying their first Premier League campaign since 2006/07 and currently sit seventh in the table — five points off fourth-placed Chelsea with a game in hand. It is a continuation of the incredible job Chris Wilder has done since taking over at his boyhood club in 2016.

Sheffield United achieved two promotions in three years under the former Oxford and Northampton coach, and travel to Aston Villa in the league’s resumption on Wednesday looking to unsettle the established order.

On top of the two promotions achieved in three years, Wilder has overseen positive results against some of England’s biggest clubs this season. The Blades have drawn with Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, while also claiming the scalp of Arsenal.

This comes despite the topsy-turvy decade the Blades have endured, dropping as low as League One while seeing a number of hugely talented players pass through the club – such as current Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire.

Despite their good standing, there must be many Sheffield United fans who wish they had managed to keep hold of Maguire along with the various stars they have had to let go.

With that, we’ve put together an XI of the best former Sheff Utd players still knocking around to see how they compare to Wilder’s current crop. It’s quite the impressive line-up, but would they stand a chance against the current Blades? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook.

Goalkeeper: Aaron Ramsdale 

Current club: Bournemouth
Sheffield Utd apps: 2

The 22-year-old hailed from Bramall Lane but made just two FA Cup appearances before moving to Bournemouth in 2017. The competent shot-stopper has had to bide his time at Dean Court, but has really come to the fore this season and proven invaluable to Eddie Howe and the club’s aspirations of beating the drop.

Much has been made about the precocious exploits of Dean Henderson, but at 22, Ramsdale is the youngest starting goalkeeper in the league, and has been tipped to break into the England squad under Gareth Southgate’s supervision. He has produced a string of impressive displays, and if the Cherries avoid relegation, then Ramsdale is sure to attract most of the plaudits.

Centre-back: Gary Cahill

Current club: Crystal Palace
Sheffield Utd apps: 16

Many will be unaware two-time Premier League winner Gary Cahill spent a short spell on loan at Sheffield United in the 2007/08 Championship season. The centre-back joined the Blades on a three-month deal from Aston Villa in the first half of the campaign.

He then left Villa permanently for Bolton Wanderers in the January 2008 transfer window. At Bolton, he would go on to become one of England’s most highly-rated defenders, and his form eventually earned him a big-money move to Chelsea. He is now at Crystal Palace having left the Blues in the summer and is a key member of Roy Hodgson’s team.

Centre-back: Kyle Bartley  

Current club: West Brom
Sheffield Utd apps: 37

The Arsenal academy graduate took his first steps in professional football at Bramall Lane, enjoying two separate loan spells in South Yorkshire during his formative years. He didn’t quite make the grade in north London and eventually left for Swansea before relocating to West Brom in 2018, where he has gone on to establish an authoritative role in the heart of the Baggies’ backline and proven key to Slaven Bilic and the club’s promotion push from the Championship.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire

Current club: Manchester United
Sheffield Utd apps: 166

Harry Maguire has enjoyed an astonishing rise in stature since signing for Leicester in the summer of 2017, becoming a favourite among England fans in the 2018 World Cup and earning a move to Manchester United.

The Sheffield-born centre-back rose through the ranks at his boyhood club and was eventually tempted away by the proposal of Premier League football at Hull City. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, but Sheffield United fans – and perhaps Maguire himself – will be dreaming of a reunion later in his career.

Right wing-back: Kyle Walker

Current club: Manchester City
Sheffield Utd apps: 35

Now a two-time Premier League winner with Manchester City thanks to a string of scintillating displays on the right flank, Kyle Walker was once a young centre-back trying to break into the Sheffield United team.

His efforts saw Tottenham swoop and loan him back to Bramall Lane, where he played 26 times in the 2009/10 Championship campaign. Further loans with QPR and Aston Villa followed before he became a Spurs regular, and the rest is history. Like Maguire, Walker still attends his former club’s games when possible.

Central midfield: Conor Coady 

Current club: Wolves
Sheffield Utd apps: 50

The Wolves skipper has firmly found his place at home in Nuno Espirito Santo’s three-pronged defensive line, but before confirming his centre-back status, the Liverpudlian was proving his worth as a competent midfield enforcer, a role in which he flourished during a brief Sheffield sojourn.

During the 2013/14 season Coady spent his time on loan from Liverpool at Bramall Lane, where he amassed 50 appearances in all competitions. The versatile midfielder was tasked with protecting a rearguard that consisted of Maguire at the back, and that is exactly his role in this XI.

Central midfield: David Brooks

Current club: Bournemouth
Sheffield Utd apps: 37

David Brooks was cited as one of the Premier League’s signings of the season last term by fans and pundits alike. The Wales international has been excellent for Bournemouth since arriving on the south coast from Sheffield United in 2018.

Brooks quickly became a regular at Bramall Lane in the 2017/18 season, making 33 appearances and scoring three goals from central midfield in the Championship. He bettered that tally in his debut top-flight campaign, scoring seven goals in 30 matches for the Cherries. At just 22, Brooks has a bright future ahead of him, though his progress is currently being halted by an ankle injury.

Left wing-back: Matthew Lowton 

Current club: Burnley
Sheffield Utd apps: 89

He would have to shift across the pitch to the left flank, but Lowton has showcased an aptitude to perform at the highest level and would surely have no problem functioning in unfamiliar territory. The 31-year-old emerged from Sheff Utd’s academy and made just shy of 100 appearances for the club before moving to Aston Villa in 2012. Since then he has been a near ever-present in the Premier League and proven a competent outlet for Sean Dyche.

Forward: Che Adams

Current club: Southampton
Sheffield Utd apps: 55

Che Adams was one of Sheffield United’s shining lights in League One, but the team’s failure to achieve promotion to the Championship in 2015/16 saw them lose him to Birmingham City in the summer of 2016.

Since then, the 23-year-old has gradually become one of the second division’s most lethal strikers, scoring 22 goals last season, earning him a move to the Premier League with Southampton.

Forward: Matt Phillips

Current club: West Brom
Sheffield Utd apps: 7

It was quite the season for Phillips in 2011/12. With chances at Blackpool limited under Ian Holloway following their relegation from the Premier League, Phillips relocated to Bramall Lane on loan. The threatening forward was simply devastating in League One, scoring five goals in six games before returning to Bloomfield Road that same season and producing some talismanic performances to help guide Blackpool to the Championship play-off final.

He started in the showpiece event at Wembley against West Ham and assisted Tom Ince in the club’s equalising goal, but squandered two glorious chances as Sam Allardyce’s Hammers netted a late winner to seal promotion. He’ll be hoping to avoid a repeat of that and help guide West Brom to automatic promotion this term.

Forward: Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Current club: Everton
Sheffield Utd apps: 12

Dominic Calvert-Lewin didn’t score a single goal in his 12 appearances for Sheffield United, but his energetic displays for someone so young tempted Everton to take him to Merseyside in the summer of 2016.

After putting in a number of mature performances for Everton last season, including leading the line brilliantly in a 4-0 mauling of Manchester United, Calvert-Lewin has finally found goals. The 23-year-old has scored 13 league goals this season and is shone under Carlo Ancelotti. An England call-up is surely not far away.