In the summer of 2007, Sheffield United were in somewhat of a crisis.
Having failed to keep his side in the Premier League, Neil Warnock resigned from his role as manager after eight years in charge at Bramall Lane, creating a disturbing level on uncertainty surrounding the future of the club.
Bryan Robson was tasked with the job of replacing the former Notts County boss and sent out a clear signal of intent to the Blades’ Championship rivals by signing James Beattie from Everton for £4m (via the BBC). Although the forward had experienced a hugely successful time at Southampton, his two-year stint at Goodison Park saw him fail to fire for the Toffees and so at the time of United’s purchase, it was seen as being quite a big risk for the club to take.
Despite a huge amount of pressure placed upon his shoulders to deliver for the Yorkshire-based outfit, Beattie took it all in his stride and made an immediate impact by scoring on his debut against Colchester United. An immensely successful campaign in-front of goal saw the former England international find the back of the net on 22 occasions as he proved to a menace in the second tier. However, his escapades couldn’t propel the Blades to the play-offs as they finished in a disappointing ninth-place after sacking Robson in February 2008.
The following season saw Beattie pick up where he had left off in the Championship as he made a storming start for United, scoring 12 goals in 23 appearances which helped to propel Kevin Blackwell’s side into contention for automatic promotion whilst also capturing the attention of Stoke City boss Tony Pulis. With the Potters in need of a new striker after experiencing a poor run of form in the Premier League, they decided to swoop in the January transfer window and eventually secured a deal to bring the Blades ace to the Britannia Stadium.
Supporters at Bramall Lane were understandably disappointed at the time to see Beattie leave as he had been superb during his brief spell at the club and it can be argued that if they had not let him go, they could have easily secured a top-two finish which would have secured a return to the top tier of English football. Instead, United had to settle for third-place behind Birmingham City and then went on to suffer play-off heartbreak at the hands of Burnley at Wembley Stadium.
Up until the current campaign, this was the closest that the club had got to Premier League football since being relegated in 2007 yet they are on the verge of bucking that trend under the guidance of Chris Wilder. With six games to go, the Blades are in a brilliant position to secure automatic promotion and may look back at Beattie’s contributions 10 years ago as inspiration to complete the job that the forward threatened to do almost single-handedly during his time in Sheffield.
Blades, what are some of your favourite Beattie memories? Join the discussion by commenting below…