Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who together with Kevin McCabe co-owns Sheffield United, discusses manager Chris Wilder, plans for the January transfer window and the season so far ahead of tonight’s game against Leeds United at Elland Road. James Shield, The Star’s United correspondent, poses the questions.
James Shield: How do you reflect on your time in football and here at Bramall Lane so far?
Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud: Since I became involved, I did not know that I would be away for three years with the Government. I wanted to be closer to the club. I have been president of, in my opinion, the biggest club in Saudi Arabia which is Al-Hilal. My brother was president for six years and I was very involved with him. I was responsible for most of the financial stuff, the contracts. Basically I was the numbers guy. When I came to Sheffield, my big passion is the Premier League. I won’t miss a weekend and my office know not to book me a flight when we are playing or games are on. I can’t complain. We have had two cup semi-finals, one play-off and one promotion. Then there is this year. I try not to look at the standings because I don’t want to believe it.
JS: So why Sheffield United? And how strong is your commitment?
PA: I thought Sheffield United were a big club, a historical club and the more I read, the more I became interested. I want to become more involved now. I will only leave this club two ways I think. If I can’t afford to do it anymore because, unless you are in the Premier League, it really does cost a lot of money. Or if I felt I was standing in the way of the club becoming a much better club. I wouldn’t get out for the money. Only if, say, another Sheikh Mansour arrived, would I go. Even then, I would like to stay involved in some way because I have become a fan.
JS: So supporters can be assured that your goal is reaching the Premier League?
PA: The Premier League is the aim. Because, if you think about it, every year we are in the Championship or God forbid League One, it is just losing money for the owner. Going to the Premier League is the only way. I am really committed to that as much as I can be. People can not compare us to Paris St Germain or Manchester City because these, I think, are owned by states rather than individuals. Most people assume because you are a prince, you are born with a lot of money. Some are like that but I had to work hard for mine. So when I spend it, I want to spend it wisely. Honestly, though, I am really now a fan.
JS: Now you no longer hold a government position, as Saudi Arabia’s General President of Youth Welfare, will you be more hands-on?
PA: Yes, I think the club can improve in many areas still. For me, a successful club is a strong financial club. The more independent it can be, the better. We can not have wasted money. If we spend money, it can only be to improve the team. We have to run the best financial operation, have the best people and now we are lucky because we have the Messiah (Chris Wilder).
JS: How can the club improve?
PA: There are obvious things on the football side because everyone wants to keep driving forward. But there is also commercial, ticketing and the fan experience. I love movies and there is one called ‘The Firm.’ Somebody on that said ‘I am paid to be suspicious when there is nothing to be suspicious about.’ We only can relax when we are in the Premier League. I am always looking to see what you can do improve. I made my money in tissue paper. It is a very difficult business. You need attention to details and there is a lot of competition. I like to put pressure on myself and I hate it when I am relaxed. We have played 13 games. This is only a start.
JS: And on the football side?
PA: I think we have a dilemma coming soon. The club has the DNA of Sheffield United; a good spirit and you feel proud when you watch the team play. It represents, for me, Sheffield as a city. But sooner or later there will be a challenge. Can we keep it as an English club. If we go to the Premier League, for sure we need some international players. Probably even if, God forbid, we stay in the Championship for a long time. We need to introduce international scouting for players. It is a must in the Premier League and a good thing in the Championship. English players are expensive. You can choose from a bigger pool.
JS: Systems like that can also be very expensive though.
PA: I have a plan and my people will present it to the board. We want Sheffield United to be a world class club. But we also never want to fans to lose sight of the fact this is Sheffield United, their club. We never want them to feel it isn’t.