Football, Stefan Scougall and Matt Done discovered earlier this month, can be a cut-throat business.
Less than four weeks after helping Sheffield United clinch promotion and only three after being crowned League One champions, they were among five players to learn they were surplus to requirements at Bramall Lane.
Together with James Wilson, Chris Hussey and Marc McNulty, who are also poised to depart for pastures new this summer, the duo barely had time to uncork a bottle of Bud on the squad’s post season trip to Las Vegas before news of their fate was published on the club’s website.
Scougall and Done might have finished the campaign on the periphery of Chris Wilder’s plans but, amassing 25 and 31 league appearances respectively, both made huge contributions. The likes of Jay O’Shea, Samir Carruthers and Leon Clarke helped United get across the line. Scougall, Done and Wilson, responsible for scoring the goal which enabled Wilder to celebrate his first victory in post after a difficult start, put them in a position to achieve something in the first place.
Of course, Done, Wilson and Chris Hussey, who were all made available for transfer, could yet earn reprieves. Paul Coutts and Kieron Freeman, two of United’s stand-out performers, were put up for sale by Wilder following his appointment a year ago before going on to cement regular places in his starting eleven.
Scougall, who like Marc McNulty has entered the final 12 months of his contract, will definitely join his fellow Scot in waving goodbye shortly.
Former team mates at Livingston, their experiences in South Yorkshire, described by Scougall as a “rollercoaster” on social media, should serve to remind United’s hierarchy about the danger of constantly changing managers, coaching staff and, as a consequence, style. Because, although no blame can be attached to Wilder, who demands different things from his players than, say, Nigel Clough or Nigel Adkins, two young sportsmen with plenty of untapped potential might now be destined to fulfil it elsewhere.
Scougall and McNulty are both victims of United’s failure to design proper career plans for those signed during the chaotic period before the present regime was installed 12 months ago. (In the latter’s case, I would have personally been tempted to offer a two year deal, on exactly the same terms, before sending him out again on loan. Only this time, after appointing a mentor to advise and report back, a loan with a proper purpose and point. Because the lad, despite not being the finished article, has shown he can score goals).
Both are at the right age and possess enough quality to make United, in the not so distant future, wish they had invested more time helping them to develop before entering the closing stages of their agreements. Fortunately, there now seems to be a clearer sense of identity and purpose about the club’s recruitment.