Monday, 16 March 2009

Sheffield United's Hypothetical Compensation

After two years of legal rambling, finally, at long last and when I had almost forgotten about the whole event, a line can be drawn under the Sheffield United-Tevez saga. Both West Ham and Sheffield United have settled on terms, that will see £15m heading north to the Blades, in separate payments over the next five years.

I do not blame Sheffield United for feeling cheated, and their pursuit of financial compensation for being relegated is understandable, given how much money is virtually guaranteed from either being promoted or simply staying in the Premiership today. Clubs plan their finances based on the on the lush land that the premiership will yield, and more often than not, clubs gamble too much on the fact that they will be in the top flight the following season. In what used to be a well run Premier League Club, Charlton Athletic, is now propping up the foot of the Championship table.

Sheffield United's grievances stem from the third party ownership of Argentine pair Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. Still to this day, I am in a state of disbelief that West Ham even managed to sign the two of them. Given the relatively small amount of time the pair spent at Upton Park, and especially in the case of Mascherano, maybe the audacious transfer coup was a figment of my imagination, justifying my disbelief. Could my imagination be the same reason why Robinho is now trotting around The City of Manchester Stadium?

For a moment I will accept that Tevez and Mascherano did sign for West Ham. The Tevez goal against United at Old Trafford, providing adequate evidence to quash any grounds of reasonable doubt. At the time of their transfers, West Ham were gearing up for their second season back in the top flight and were looking to build on a solid previous campaign. Both of the players had been out of action for a long period of time and were going through the easy transition of life in Brazil to life in East London. In short, swapping Caipirinha's for mugs of tea.

Due to the enormous amount of talent the pair both possessed, and despite the obvious lack of fitness, they were thrown in to a team and expected to work their magic instantly. Unfortunately for West Ham, this was not to be the case, the team didn't gel, and they found themselves battling it out at the wrong of the table before the season had barely got under way.

The grounds of which the whole epic Sheffield United-Tevez saga is based on is a hypothetical scenario. The argument being, had Tevez not been allowed to play for the Hammers, which legally should have been the case, he would not have been on the pitch, playing such an instrumental part of West Ham's Premiership survival.

However, you can also argue, hypothetically, had the pair not been allowed to play at the start of the season, West Ham's form may have been vastly different. The disruption to the team could have been avoided, and West Ham might not have even been involved in a relegation battle in the first place.

Sheffield United's relegation at the end of the 2006-07 season, and subsequent legal battle with West Ham detract from the obvious fact that each team is responsible for its own performance. Liverpool, who make a habit of under performing against newly promoted sides each season, (Bradford away springs to mind) drew with Sheffield United on the opening day. Liverpool were 1-nil down, until they were granted a penalty, which if my memory serves me correctly, was taken and converted by Robbie Fowler. Those 2 points dropped by Sheffield United would have been enough to clinch the elusive 40 point standard target for premiership survival, come the end of the season. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Despite the financial troubles already looming over West Ham and their Icelandic Chairman, settling on the £15m compensation will now allow them to bring an end to off field distractions, and will refocus their attention to matters on field.

Sheffield United, who will never know the true cost of relegation that season, will at least get a timely cash injection as they push for promotion back to the Premier League.

Whether you agree with the compensation package or not, what can not be argued is that the whole saga will have done little to build relations between the two clubs. And, with the possibility of the two clubs meeting next season, should Sheffield United gain promotion, as a neutral I am genuinely excited about a fixture, I would once have paid little attention to. Bring on the happy reunion.

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