It says everything about the progress Jamal Blackman has made since arriving at Bramall Lane that Simon Moore, one of the driving forces behind Sheffield United’s promotion last season, faces a battle to regain his starting place.
Many observers felt, perhaps even some members of Chris Wilder’s coaching staff, that Blackman would make way once Moore had recovered from the knee injury he sustained during July’s friendly against Rotherham.
But three months later, and with the former Brentford goalkeeper now fighting fit, Blackman enters today’s game against Ipswich Town set to make his 12th appearance of the season and looking every inch an established number one; a situation he attributes to the comradely atmosphere which exists behind the scenes.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” Blackman said. “Everyone has been really welcoming and we have been doing so well. It’s a great team to play in, everyone wants to win, that helps everyone to work even harder. The staff here make that a main work ethic, and it helps with everyone being able to lean on each other.”
Blackman’s form since being signed on loan from Chelsea has presented Wilder with the type of dilemma supporters enjoy debating over a pre-match pint and which managers, particularly those who never like their players to get too comfortable, love. Moore’s arrival from Brentford at the beginning of last term was a catalyst for United’s march to the League One title following a slow start to the campaign. Blackman, despite his burgeoning reputation, was viewed very much as a stop-gap when United announced they had prised him away from Stamford Bridge. But having conceded only twice at Bramall Lane so far this season, the 23-year-old will prove difficult to shift. Ultimately, the biggest winner of this duel between two supremely talented goalkeepers will be United. Which, after entering the international break third in the table, is exactly what Wilder wants.
It speaks volumes about the type of environment he has created behind the scenes that Blackman, despite spending less than 12 weeks in South Yorkshire, already refers to United as ‘we’ and, speaking at the club’s training ground on Thursday, preferred to talk-up his team mates rather than accept personal praise.
“It’s not just the back four, the whole team is defending from the front, pressing and working together,” Blackman said. “Coming from League One, the gaffer has put together a great gameplan, and the games obviously show other teams that we are here to play football, score goals, and keep clean sheets if possible. Coming up from League One, we have proven we are here and ready to compete in the Championship.”