Sheffield United Look to ex-Premier League Players to Shine

Steven WoodgateCorrespondent INovember 17, 2008

Premiership class in the Championship may be overrated. Many of the players that have made the transition, or "step down" have struggled to keep up with the pace and power of Championship football.

Whilst the massive players like James Beattie and Kevin Phillips have certainly flourished in the league, many others end up struggling.

Andy Cole was a prime example as he announced his retirement from Nottingham Forest. He found it difficult to adapt and Colin Calderwood simply chose not to select him.

No club has quite recaptured the form of the players like Sheffield United have. They have many ex-Premier League stars turning out for them each week, and they have been performing well.

So far this season The Blades have not been doing so bad; sitting a healthy fifth position firmly in the promotion picture.

Kevin Blackwell assembled his squad with his tried and tested notion and it has been the pinnacle of his success.

The relegation in 2007 hit them hard, huge controversy surrounded the saga. Famously West Ham stayed up through a Carlos Tevez winner at Old Trafford. Last season was a year of transition and it is encouraging to see a good club like Sheffield United looking admirable again.

Last season they finished ninth but never looked like the side that achieved promotion with Reading and Watford in 2006.

Ex-Premier League talent came pouring in and soon it became the norm at Bramall Lane, high calibre players reaching the twilight of their careers were putting on the red and white strips.

Blackwell made a shrewd move bringing in these players; it may have been deemed that they may not be up to the task. However so far this season they have defied that belief.

The most prodigious one must be James Beattie. He has been scoring goals for fun since his £4 million move in the summer of 2007. The expensive price tag was justified as he supplied 22 goals last term and seven so far this term.

Beattie came with bags of Premier League, and scoring, known how. He scored plenty of goals for Southampton, Blackburn Rovers, and Everton before deciding to take a step down to rediscover his touch.

Sun Jihai was a regular right back at Manchester City before joining the Blades, apart from his straight red card against Coventry City he has been performing well.

Gary Naysmith joined from Everton and is still good enough to be playing for a Premier League club. His £1 million pound transfer has been worthwhile as he has really tightened up the left side of defence.

Gary Speed has performed superbly at every club he has represented and it is no surprise that he has been doing the same at United. He currently holds the esteemed honour of racking up more Premier League appearances than any other player. After joining in January 2008, Speed has been vital in United’s recent success.

Keith Gillespie was another Premier League star who was touted for big things, unfortunately he never really reached those expectations. Neil Warnock signed him in 2005 to add experience and flair to his midfield, but times have been difficult and he is often found fighting for a spot on the bench.

Ugo Ehiogu is another experienced Premier League campaigner; he joined from Rangers also in January 2008. He certainly adds experience and much steel to the defence. Once costing £8 million, he has been the lynchpin at the back and has formed a good partnership with Chris Morgan.

These players have dropped down to the league and have done a good job, Blackwell must have been trying to preserve these players and prolong their careers. So far, he has been able to do that.

With more foreign influences invading the Premier League, the Championship may even be the next port of call for a new breed of English talent.