Scouting report: Sheffield United

A closer look at Saturday’s visitors to Macron Stadium

Ahead of Sheffield United's visit to Macron Stadium and the start of the 2016/17 Sky Bet League One season, take a closer look at Chris Willder's side...

Heading into their sixth consecutive season as a League One outfit, Sheffield United will be hoping that they have something to celebrate come next May.

Consistently dubbed as one of the major favourites for promotion, the faith shown in the Blades has been vindicated for the most part with them securing a play-off berth in three of the last five campaigns, only to fall at the final hurdle.

However, after finishing eight points adrift of the top six last term, the United hierarchy decided to part ways with manager Nigel Adkins after a solitary campaign under his stewardship.

Sheffield-born Chris Wilder was named his replacement, off the back of helping Northampton Town to the League Two championship title last season, and he has wasted no time in making his mark within the Bramall Lane ranks.

Securing permanent deals with the likes of James Wilson, Jake Wright – who also won promotion to the third tier last season with Oxford – John Fleck, Chris Hussey and Leon Clarke among others, the United boss undoubtedly has one aim in his mind for the coming campaign.

And having enjoyed a relatively successful pre-season, the Blades arrive at Macron Stadium this weekend looking to start as they mean to go on with expectations once again high this term.

• W 0-5 – Stockbridge Park Steels (Pre-Season Friendly, 14/7/16)
• W 1-4 – Murcia Regional Representative Squad (Pre-Season Friendly, 14/7/16)
• L 2-0 – FC Halifax Town (Pre-Season Friendly, 19/7/16)
• W 1-3 – Grimsby Town (Pre-Season Friendly, 23/7/16)
• L 0-1  – Derby County (Pre-Season Friendly, 23/7/16)
• W 1-5 – Handsworth Parramore (Pre-Season Friendly, 29/7/16)

Born and bred in the Steel City, Chris Wilder returned to his spiritual home this summer when agreeing to become Sheffield United’s latest manager. 

A defender during his playing days, he started his professional career with the Blades back in the mid-1980s following time with Southampton as a youngster, before enjoying stints with Rotherham, Notts County and Bradford City.

Briefly returning to Sheffield United, he saw out his playing days with Brighton & Hove Albion and Halifax Town before taking his first steps into management with Alfreton Town before moving on to Halifax Town. 

Tasting play-off triumph at his next port of call with Oxford United, he linked up with Northampton Town in January 2014, leading the Cobblers to the League Two title last term before departing Sixfields to once again return to Bramall Lane.

A prolific goalscorer outside the Premier League, Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp has scored goals consistently throughout his career to date. 

His move to United last summer meanwhile marked something of a full circle for the striker, having been on the books of his hometown club as a youngster. 

Initially unable to make his mark at Bramall Lane, the forward enjoyed two goal-laden seasons with Scunthorpe United, winning League One in 2006/07, before returning to the Blades in 2007. 

Moving on to Doncaster Rovers in 2010 following a successful loan spell with the club, he was on his travels once again two years later with Southampton his next port of call. 

Winning promotion to the Premier League with the Saints, he unfortunately saw his opportunities limited at St Mary’s and, after various loan stints, signed for Leeds United in August 2014. 

After just a solitary season at Elland Road however, he made it a hat-trick of stints the Blades after once again returning to Bramall Lane, scoring 21 goals for the club in all competitions last season.

A recent arrival at Bramall Lane, Leon Clarke will be eager to make an immediate impact for Sheffield United when the Blades travel to Macron Stadium on Saturday.

The forward has proven himself as a prolific League One goalscorer in recent seasons, enjoying goal-laden spells with Scunthorpe United, Coventry City and Bury.

Starting his career with Wolverhampton Wanderers, the 31-year-old also enjoyed permanent stints with Sheffield Wednesday, Queens Park Rangers, Swindon Town and Charlton Athletic before returning Molineux via his time with Coventry.

Having helped Wolves win promotion to the Championship as League One Champions in 2013/14, he joined Bury last summer and scored 18 goals in his solitary year at Gigg Lane. 

Boasting over 100 career goals to his name, Clarke’s record in the third tier prompted Sheffield United to swoop for his signature late last month, bringing him to Bramall Lane for an undisclosed fee.

LAST SHEFFIELD UNITED XI (v Stockbridge Park Steels, W 1-5)
Long, Freeman, Davey, Wright, Wallace, Reed (Whiteman 45), Coutts, Adams, Scougall, McNulty (Brooks 45), Clarke (Gordon 78).

Second half goals from Gretar Steinsson and Johan Elmander saw Wanderers record a 2-0 victory the last time they met Sheffield United, hosting the Blades in an FA Cup fourth round tie at the Reebok Stadium back in January 2010.

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