Ben Meakin, BladesPod
A sentence I never thought I would write 12 months ago: Oli McBurnie could be key to Sheffield United staying in the Premier League.
A year ago McBurnie was a striker who had gone a full Championship season without a goal and couldn’t stay fit. Then he volleyed in an equaliser at Luton and went on an absurd spell of scoring, where for a few months he was essentially the best striker in the Championship.
Injury disrupted the second half of that season for him, and he missed the start of this one with another knock - but he’s now back in the team.
With respect to Benie Traore and William Osula, it’s made an immense difference having an experienced, fully-formed striker on the pitch in McBurnie. He posed problems off the bench for the mighty Manchester City and then got an assist, and was inches away from a winner against Everton.
As well as his strong play, it’s McBurnie’s personality that could make a major difference for us this season. He’s much less of the magnet-for-trouble that we saw in his first few years, and is now the squad’s resident lovable rogue and - increasingly - an on-field leader.
McBurnie had the cheesiest of cheesy grins upon the return of James McAtee this week, perhaps signalling the resumption of last season’s bromance.
He also has enough respect among his team-mates to publicly chide Anel Ahmedhodzic for trying to use his feet instead of another appendage against Manchester City. “Head it bro” was definitely one way of articulating the howls from the Bramall Lane Kop in that moment.
After a tough start to the season, a strong team spirit is going to count for a lot in the coming weeks and McBurnie can lead the line, on and off the pitch.