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Profit Players: Sheffield United invested in Jack O’Connell at the perfect time

This article forms part of our Profit Players feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at how well a player has fared since being signed or sold, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to prove how good of a deal the club managed to achieve.

The success of Sheffield United in the last few seasons has been quite remarkable. Just three years ago, the Blades were lining up against the likes of Walsall, Chesterfield and Rochdale in League One.

Now they are going to Old Trafford, Anfield and the Etihad Stadium amongst others to compete at the same level as some of the elite clubs in the country.

There are plenty of people who have helped that dream become a reality for the Blades but one person who has been at the club throughout the whole period is Jack O’Connell.

The centre-back was one of Chris Wilder’s first signings when he arrived at the club in 2016, joining for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £225,000 according to Transfermarkt.

Since then, he has been instrumental in Sheffield United’s rise from League One to the Premier League. He plays as one of their outside centre-backs in a 3-5-2 formation (per Transfermarkt), with Wilder allowing him and Chris Basham to get forward at every opportunity – a unique way of playing which O’Connell has thrived under.

In his first season with the Blades, O’Connell made 44 league appearances and helped his team keep 16 clean sheets. He also scored four goals and provided two assists in that campaign (via Transfermarkt) as he and his teammates romped to the third division title with 100 points (via Sky Sports).

He then made the step up to the Championship with ease, playing every single minute of their first season back in the second tier and helping to keep 10 clean sheets (via Transfermarkt).

In their second year in the Championship, he was outstanding, along with most Sheffield United players. Indeed he was part of a defence which conceded just 41 goals all season, keeping clean sheets in 46% of their matches which ultimately helped the South Yorkshire club win promotion to the Premier League (via SoccerStats).

That is where O’Connell now finds himself, going from a player Brentford didn’t want to a Premier League centre-back who looks comfortable in the top flight. Indeed it has been a seamless transition for him, starting all eight Premier League games so far and averaging 6.4 clearances per game, 5.1 aerial duels won per game and 1.6 interceptions per game with an average rating of 7.02 (via WhoScored).

He is playing so well that his manager believes that he could challenge for a place in the England squad (per Yorkshire Evening Post), and he is certainly now worth more than the reported fee they paid for him back in 2016.

Last year Brighton reportedly bid £8 million for the player (Daily Mail) but the Blades rejected it. Indeed, that was before he helped them to promotion, so his value is likely to be even higher than that now.

Sheffield United fans, how well as Jack O’Connell done for you? And how much would you want before considering selling him in today’s market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…

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Profit Players: Sheffield United invested in Jack O’Connell at the perfect time
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