Rotherham 3 Sheffield United 1 match report: Blades lack royal approval

Sheffield United's Saudi co-owner demands instant improvement after derby defeat

the new york stadium

It was as well this was a day for the bigger picture, because perception, warned Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz al Saud with the genial assurance of the seriously wealthy, can be misleading.

Just because his family is the richest in the world does not mean the new co-owner of Sheffield United, and the first member of Saudi Arabian royalty to invest in English football, has access to the sort of funds which mean the Blades must now be bracketed with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

"My money is on public record, I own 50 per cent of Saudi Paper, and Saudi Paper is quoted on the stock market. Go check and add maybe 5 to 10 per cent," said the balding, bespectacled, besuited and apparently benign grandson of King Abdulaziz.

Which, with Saudi Paper Manufacturing currently valued at around £240 million, suggests the new co-owner of the Blades is worth, oh, a trifling £130m or so. Not as much as United supporters might have thought, but enough to indicate the transfer fund he has made available to the South Yorkshire club runs to at least £20m.

At this level, that is still a lot of money. Financial Fair Play may require League One clubs to spend no more than 60 per cent of their turnover on players' wages, but they can spend what they want on transfer fees and signing bonuses. Plenty of scope for a creative accountant to work with there, and as Prince Abdullah's intention is to see United playing the Premier League football that he says he watches obsessively as soon as possible, ideally within five years, it should be enough to see United into the Championship.

Taking the next step will require a lot more money, but that should not be a problem. His Royal Highness made it clear other Saudi investors are expected to come on board, and talks to this effect are already taking place.

Leeds United, Derby County and Charlton Athletic supporters may wince at this point, because it could have been their club receiving an injection of cash. The 47-year-old said that having decided to get involved in English football, his original intention had been to buy – or at least invest in – a Championship club.

The three mentioned were examined, Leeds with particular care, but the deal was "not straightforward" and a chance meeting with the Blades' chairman, Kevin McCabe, led to him buying 50 per cent of Sheffield United's parent company for a pound.

The quid pro quo for acquiring a half-share in a debt-free club – because McCabe said his family have written off the £90m they claim to have pumped into the club over the years – is that the Prince made substantial funds available to bring in new players. Having done so, however, he made clear he expects a return.

"Manchester City and Paris St-Germain are clubs backed by governments. I am sure they have their own goals, which may not be to turn a profit, they are maybe to bring good PR to their countries," he said. "And if they succeed, God bless them.

"But I am an investor, and I will not make any money unless the team gets promoted. I don't get my money from an oil well, everything I have I have to work for."

So while he said he intended to take a back seat while he learns the business of football, the manager, David Weir, needs to be under no illusion as to what is expected.

"I think we have had a horrible start," said Prince Abdullah. "Four points out of five games is not going to get you anywhere.

"The team needs to improve and it needs to improve quickly. Good performances are not going to take you anywhere, you are what your record says you are."

That said, the new co-owner, who said he began life as a Spurs supporter before transferring his allegiance to Manchester United and the San Francisco 49ers, indicated the former Everton and Scotland centre-half has impressed him.

"I spoke to David and I liked him. I've met many coaches, Eric Gerets, Mario Zagallo [both of whom have managed leading Saudi club Al-Hilal, owned by the Royal Family]. I know coaches and I know the sport."

Whether he likes Weir so much after watching this frantic, often ugly derby may be open to question. United took the lead after Jose Baxter – bought from Oldham with some of Prince Abdullah's money at the end of the transfer window – squeezed the ball home from a narrow angle in the first half.

In the second half, however, they were both outplayed and outfought, and Rotherham United, themselves very much a club on the up, first equalised through Kieran Agard's powerful angled drive and then secured the points through Daniel Nardiello's penalty and Rob Milsom's low shot.

The result leaves Sheffield United the worst placed of South Yorkshire's professional clubs, but better times should now be ahead. And they can be reassured about something else too, unlike certain other clubs with a new owner.

"I bought into a big, important piece of history and I'm not going to play with that," said the new man at the top. "We're not going to be called Sheffield 49ers or change the colours to pink."

Rotherham (4-2-3-1): Shearer; Brindley, Morgan (Nardiello, 47), Davis, Skarz; Mills, Frecklington; Agaard, Pringle, Milsom; Revell.

Sheffield United (4-4-2): Howard; McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill; Flyn (Bunn, 69), Coady, Doyle, Cuvelier; Baxter, Porter (Taylor, 69).

Referee Andy D'Urso.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power