The Bizarre Back Story to Sheffield United’s Return to the English Premier League

Sheffield United will start the 2023/24 season in the English Premier League (EPL) after sealing a hard-fought automatic promotion place with three games to spare. The Blades defeated playoff-chasing West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at Bramall Lane to clinch promotion in front of their own supporters. In doing so, they join Vincent Kompany’s Burnley, who richly deserved their title success after blowing the division away this term.

The Blades have been sitting comfortably in second place for some time, despite the likes of Middlesbrough and Luton Town threatening to chase them down in the closing stages of the season. Nevertheless, Paul Heckingbottom’s side have kept their heads and stayed the course. As for Boro and Luton, they will have to settle for the lottery of the Championship playoffs. Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough look likely to be favorites to win at Wembley, with DraftKings Sportsbook pricing them as +165 favorites ahead of Luton (+240). This operator has evolved from a daily fantasy sports platform into one of the biggest licensed sportsbooks in the US, with the DraftKings Sportsbook bets code now open to 18 states, underlining why its futures lines are odds that can be trusted.

Although the job is well and truly done for United, their supporters will be slightly alarmed about the financial condition of the club at present. Their Saudi Arabian owner, Prince Abdullah, has confirmed he plans to sell the club despite their promotion back to the EPL. Prince Abdullah has been a somewhat controversial owner of the Blades given that he was forced to enter into a High Court battle with former chairman Kevin McCabe to achieve sole ownership in autumn 2019.

He recently revealed on national radio that he had pumped in over £40 million into the Bramall Lane outfit since that High Court win. Nevertheless, the club has been littered with off-field issues, as United were hit with a transfer embargo by the English Football League (EFL) for failing to meet their agreed payment schedule to Liverpool for the signing of striker Rhian Brewster.

Despite head coach Heckingbottom’s inability to strengthen the United squad in the January transfer window in order to cement their automatic promotion bid, the Blades’ current side have done him and the red half of Sheffield proud. United not only secured a top-two finish but they also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup before losing to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at Wembley.

The ongoing takeover saga between Prince Abdullah and Nigerian entrepreneur Dozy Mmobuosi

In recent months, reports have suggested that Abdullah has been locked in negotiations to sell the club to Nigerian businessman Dozy Mmobuosi in a deal worth £115m. However, relations appear to have soured between the two parties in recent weeks, with Abdullah reiterating that he isn’t “going to sell [the club] to just anybody”.

Mmobuosi is said to have provided upwards of £8.7m in funding towards the club this season, which does muddy the waters somewhat. It’s likely the Nigerian will want to reclaim his funds should Abdullah rule the tech tycoon out of the running for the Blades. These funds were said to have helped United avoid falling into administration. In January, Mmobuosi was also asked to help the club settle an ongoing £1.2 million debt with HM Revenue and Customs. It’s said that Mmobuosi did all the above on the basis that his acquisition would be ratified earlier this year, but to no avail.

Cynics may believe that Prince Abdullah is simply looking to move the goalposts, with the club’s automatic promotion making the club’s £115 million value exceedingly cheap in the current climate. If his delay tactics are designed to elicit an extra £10-20 million from the pocket of Mmobuosi, the Saudi prince is playing a dangerous game, with seemingly no other concrete offers on the table for the Blades.

This summer is monumental for United boss Paul Heckingbottom

On the field, United’s promotion now means they should be able to retain the services of their top talent. Norwegian international midfielder Sander Berge is at the core of the United team, while talented youngsters Tommy Doyle and James McAtee have provided energy and enthusiasm in abundance.

United fans will be praying this ownership saga does not rumble on through the summer and prevent Heckingbottom from strengthening his squad. If this proves to be the case, the Blades are sure to kick off the 2023/24 EPL campaign with their backs against the wall.